Dutch premier league football club Go Ahead Eagles will soon start revamping their home ground, including the pitch. What the field will be like was shown at their training ground.
The plans were revealed by the club’s Operations Supervisor, Ron Janssen, during a joint presentation day GrassMax, Draintalent, Raw Stadia and Covermaster hosted at stadium De Adelaarshorst in Deventer.
“Since our promotion to the Eredivisie in 2013, which happened completely by accident, we have been steadily building our future. This year, we redid our training field. Next year, we will replace the main field before replacing two of our stands,” he explained.
“The training field had become too sandy and had a greasy top layer.” To prevent this from happening in the future, Go Ahead Eagles invested in a Draintalent, a Dutch invention that manages moisture and oxygen levels in the soil. The field is currently being reinforced by GrassMax. Next year, the same combination will be installed inside the stadium.
The training field is currently being stitched with 20cm long artificial grass yarn. “18cm of this goes into the soil, leaving 2cm sticking out on the surface. However, our laser-controlled machines are variable and can also handle depths of only 10cm, while we already work on stitching to a depth of up to only 6cm,” explained GrassMax founder Marc Vercammen. Vercammen was once the driving force behind Tarkett’s Grassmaster.
“We use a machine built by SMG from Germany, which means we can work very precisely and have a solid end result,” was his explanation when asked to explain the difference between the two hybrid concepts. “We now have 14 machines worldwide. This flexibility and short lead time means that we can respond to almost all requests.”
He also explained the careful selection process for the fibres to be used. “We currently use both PE and PP yarns and accurately determine the fibre thickness to ensure that the fibre always stands upright.” GrassMax is also researching the use of biodegradable yarns.
According to Vercammen, GrassMax has completed around 50 fields this year, making it the market leader on the international market for hybrid fields. It’s an achievement that was managed within three years of commencement.
During the summer break, contractor Hofmeijer Voorst used a self-developed laser guide machine to precisely place hoses in the subbase, through which moisture and oxygen level is controlled.
“The field is divided into three sectors, each of which can be managed separately. Because this field does not suffer from shade from, for example, the stands, the sectors are next to each other. For a stadium field, we usually use three sectors that loop within each other like three ovals, with the outer oval running along the edges of the field and the inner oval taking the axis of the field. This way the groundsman can manage the most vulnerable parts of the field separately,” said Dave Muis, on behalf of Draintalent.
A technical installation extracts or adds water to the subbase. “Within 15 minutes, the moisture level will be exactly what you prefer it to be.” The unit, installed this summer, has been made future-proof.
“It has sufficient capacity to also regulate the soil moisture and air of the stadium field. Furthermore, we have added a calendar module. This allows the groundsman to schedule a start for the system without having to be physically present.” Muis believed this to be useful for instances where the grounds team leaves late, while the adjustment of the moisture or oxygen levels is scheduled for early the next day.
As the Go Ahead Eagles facilities are located in a water extraction area, the Draintalent helps manage the vulnerability of the area. “However, to simplify operations for clubs playing at amateur level, we can also programme the unit to operate completely independently and automatically.”
Measuring and flexibility
Both presentations were complemented by presentations and demonstrations from Raw Stadia and Covermaster.
Mattias de Bock from Raw Stadia explained the functionalities of an online dashboard they are discussing with the Dutch FA. “We bring together all the data that we determine with our own test equipment, together with the data from weather services as well as the predetermined preferences. The analyses of the current state and advice for maintenance tasks are then automatically generated.”
Eddy van Endert, the groundsman of KRC Genk in Belgium, shared his personal experiences with the Covermaster solutions. “It is a very simple but effective way to protect the field or to accelerate the emergence of new grass,” he said. According to van Endert, thanks to the heat the cloths retain in the soil, new grass germinates within a few days.
“In addition, the frost protection cloths save us about 30% on our energy bill because we do not need either field heating or assimilation lamps to warm the soil during the winter.” Since he made his investment, van Endert has managed to keep the field playable, despite a night frost of -4 degrees Celsius.
“These cloths allow us to cut the grass early in the morning on match day. We don’t have to worry about dew, and the grass plant itself is still relatively flexible because it wasn’t affected by the frost.” This message was well-received by the audience, as broadcaster ESPN recently urged the organisers of the Dutch Eredivisie to have the preparation of pitch completed much earlier on match day as is currently the case. Many of the groundsmen within the highest Dutch football league have objected and pointed out that this will mean that they’ll be expected to cut the grass even before sunrise.
Water purifying shells
Go Ahead Eagles also unveiled plans to build a new car park to park the buses of the visiting team. That parking lot will probably be built on a layer of eco-stable sea shells. “These shells buffer and filter the water,” a representative of the supplier told www.sportsfields.info. It is a solution that has already been used to create a water buffer for the hockey club that also serves as a possible source of fire-fighting water for the local fire brigade. “We are working on certification for the Sports Products List so that it can soon also be used as a subbase of sports fields.”