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Posted - 15 May 2020 : 16:15:15
| Hello everyone! Ste Biggy here writing what is my first ever Blog!
Now that we have at long last been able to make the announcement of the new hybrid pitch - news we had been so desperate to share with you all - I felt it important that we should keep you all informed on progress.
So this will be the first in a series of regular updates. These will deal specifically with the actual work, because there will be other statements and bulletins from the club regarding different aspects of the project.
I firstly want to assure everyone, with us currently living through this unprecedented global pandemic, that social distancing measures were at the top of the list of priorities when it came to the construction work.
I won't lie, it was yet another obstacle on what has been a seemingly never ending track of hurdles which needed to be overcome to get to this stage.
Nobody could have foreseen this kind of problem even as recently as when the club was made aware that it had been selected by the Football Foundation Grants panel for the funding of the pitch.
There was a clear directive from ourselves, the Football Foundation and the chosen specialist sub-contractor - more about them in a moment - that the works must not commence unless social distancing and all other Government measures surrounding construction work (which is also my own industry) were met.
We have been very lucky that the appointed specialist sub-contractor is literally the best in the business and already had in place a robust social distancing policy. All parties reviewed and agreed this before work started at The Millbank. The same policy had been successfully implemented at a number of Premier League and Championship stadiums in recent weeks.
There are three main parties involved in the daily work and handling of the project. As the “clients”, we (Runcorn Linnets) have a dedicated project team with various skill sets to manage the project from the club's perspective.
An organisation, which has been Involved in this scheme for several years now, even longer than ourselves, is PSD Agronomy who are the Football Foundation's technical consultants.
The appointed Main Contractor is J Mallinson from Ormskirk. J Mallinson are one of the most highly-regarded sportsturf contractors in the country and have a number of elite-level football club in their portfolio; Manchester City, Manchester United and Everton to name a few of the local ones.
It's important to understand the principles of how the new pitch is constructed. The old pitch, minus the grass, has essentially been used as the foundations for the new pitch. So the new pitch has been built on top of the old pitch, as opposed to the old pitch being dug out.
The very first job that took place, only four weeks ago, was the killing of the old grass with a spray-on substance. The "killer" took a week to do its work.
And after that, the top 3mm surface of the old pitch was scarified and ground into a topsoil, with all unusable debris removed.
This formed the foundation on which the layers of the new pitch will be built. The image below shows this - you can see the depth of the completed surface, where it sits next to the old grass as it's being removed.
What then followed was a process of levelling - levelling, then starting again, levelling, then starting again. You get my drift - they went over and over and over with the levelling until it was perfect!
Next up was drainage. We got quite lucky here because J Mallinson installed our bottom half drainage eight years ago, so they knew the layout well.
The drainage system, being installed, is quite something. In fact, it’s a Premier League pitch-standard design.
Our bottom end draining is being carried right through from the "bottom" goal to the top (clubhouse) end, spanning the full width of the pitch at five-metre centres.
And that’s only the primary drainage! The photo below shows the completed primary drainage once the lines had been backfilled with gravel and sand.
The next part of the work was the buried irrigation infrastructure. The irrigation of the new pitch, how much water will be required at certain times of the year and other key factors have all been the subject of careful consideration and calculation by the technical specialists and funding bodies.
Part of the pilot scheme is to further investigate how carpet hybrid pitches perform with less water intake than a stitched hybrid pitch, which requires a vastly complex and expansive automated network of sprinklers. Our target amount of water is 3.5mm across the pitch per day, as opposed to 5mm across the pitch per day which is the recommended amount on a standard grass pitch.
We will touch on the full details of the irrigation system in a later Blog, but the picture below shows you the start of what one of the new irrigation "tap offs" looks like. All of the water to irrigate the pitch will be directly from our SoccerMillion bore hole which was installed last summer. This means the pitch will be drinking a purely natural water source!
The photos below show the buried in-pitch irrigation pipes and one of the new tap-off points which have been installed behind the top goal.
Once the irrigation pipework had been buried under the pitch, it was covered by a bed of sand.
After a complete re-levelling, it was time for a secondary level of drainage, called "slits", to be installed.
The slits cut across the pitch diagonally from wing to wing, you can see this in the picture below.
As our vice-chairman, Paul Eastup said: “That pitch is going to suck tea from the cups of those watching the match!”
The idea behind such a robust drainage system is to make the pitch very hard wearing and resilient, and playable as much of the year as possible.
The pitch won't be completely immune to inclement weather like a 3G is - it can still waterlog in the event of an enormous downpour, which causes flash flooding (but that would drain away very quickly). For a bit of perspective, of the two pitches in the South that are pilot phase 1, neither of them suffered a single lost day in the last two years due to waterlogging.
It can freeze like a traditional pitch because ultimately it is made of all the core components of a grass pitch with the addition of the hybrid carpet to add strength. There is no undersoil heating like there is at Premier League stadiums, where the implications of a postponed match are mammoth for the clubs concerned.
That brings you all up to date with the work as of today, the 13th of May.
In a way, this little report doesn’t do justice to the huge amount of work which has been done in just three weeks. J Mallinson have worked tirelessly for long hours each day and through the weekend to keep ahead of programme.
Looking forward to writing the next of these update in a week or two as progress continues!