An Englishman Abroad
By Chris Hague
During the winter of 1998 I was invited to take the responsibility of maintaining Parken, Denmark's National Stadium Football pitch. At the time I was employed at Wembley Stadium. I started at Wembley in the summer of 1995 on a placement from Myerscough College as part of a National Diploma course in Turf Science.
Parken was originally constructed in 1954 with one main stand and three open sides. The stadium was re-constructed in 1992 with the construction of three new stands to accompany the original. During the winter of 2000 a retractable roof was erected to enable Parken to stage indoor events regardless of the weather.
The stadium capacity is now 42000 seated and is home to Denmark's National team and also FC.Copenhagen who play in Denmark's premier division.
My career at Parken commenced in March 1999. During that time we have staged numerous sporting and non-sporting events. Prior to my arrival I had heard and investigated the problems the stadium had encountered in producing a surface to match the standard of the stadium. As with most large stadia, Parken was constructed with little consideration for the pitch. Shade and air movements are major obstacles.
Pre 1999 various attempts had been made to produce a satisfactory surface. The pitch was constructed in the winter of 1992-93 during the football season's winter break. A tent was erected to enable the work to be carried out. The depth of construction was 950mm and comprised automatic irrigation, water pipe heating and drainage system.
The new construction was not a complete success. During the winter of 1993 grow lamps were tested to stimulate growth. Growth was established but the plant was weak and did not cope with too much traffic. Grassmaster (Desso) fibres were injected into the pitch during 1994 to help stabilise the surface.
January 1999 was my first visit to Denmark and Parken. Not the best time to witness Denmark's delights. The pitch was poor which was encouraging, as there was only one way to take it! I decided to except Parken's offer.
Grass coverage was minimal and earthworm casts smothered the surface. The heating system had been running throughout the winter break, which encouraged the surface feeders. From 1999 onwards we allow the pitch to freeze, which has a number of benefits including reducing the casts, and savings on the the budget. The Desso was at this time buried 2cm beneath the surface. Thatch had accumulated which would need to be remedied.
The season kicked off in early March and, due to poor weather and sub standard drainage rates, the pitch was in a terrible state. The plan was to get the pitch through to the June when major renovations could be carried out.
We succeeded with this aim and, with a break of 6 weeks, 300 tonnes of topsoil were removed from the surface. The Desso was now at the surface. The pitch was seeded and fed at 50grms pm2.
On this occasion the establishment period was reduced to 5 weeks. The Desso acted as reinforcement to the plant and aided in the production of a stable surface within the limited time scale.
The construction of the 650 tonne roof has increased the capacity for a variety of events. The roof was originally constructed to allow the staging of the 2001 Eurovision song contest (report in Januarys STRI bulletin). Work commenced on the construction in October 2000 and continued through until the following May. A staggering 80,000 people attended the show and two dress rehearsals.
Pop concerts are a regular occurrence throughout the year and I have witnessed such stars as; Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, Red Hot Chile Peppers and Tina Turner, to name a few. Les Miserables, the musical, opened their tour in Parken last year.
Mike Tyson fought the Danish chumpion (not a misprint) in the centre of the pitch and, in December of last year, Venus Williams played an exhibition match.
Dinner Parties have been staged on the pitch in the past two years, with up to 7,000 diners at one sitting. That's a lot of pork pies! By September 2003 the capacity will have been increased to accommodate 10,000 diners.
Temperature control for the entire stadium is possible with the construction of a water heating system. Pipes situated at the top of the stands blow warm air into the arena enabling the stadium to operate throughout the whole year. To heat the stadium for an event the system needs to be running for up to 48hours prior to show day (dependent on the outside temperature). Therefore, situations have occurred where the roof is closed for 4 days during the winter to stage certain productions.
Terraplas is used to protect and cover the pitch during concerts and other such events. Originally designed for Wembley, terraplas allows air, light and water to be obtained by the plant when covered. To cover the pitch takes 24 people approximately 4-5hours.
Preparation of the pitch prior to covering involves differing maintenance depending on the time of year and the scale of the event. On occasions the number of spectators on the pitch can be up to 20,000. Recently a portable stand has been purchased which can seat 1800 and, for certain events, is placed on the terraplas.
Compaction is obviously a concern. The pitch is verti-drained using a 12mm tine prior to the event. Post event compaction relief is assessed at that time but, generally, aeration is carried out again.
Terraplas can produce a greenhouse effect. The atmosphere beneath the tiles becomes humid and the transpiration rate of the plant increases. Disease, in particular Fusarium is encouraged under such conditions. Denmark has a strict policy on the use of fungicides, so preventative remedies are not a straightforward option.
Air circulation is poor in the stadium and in 2001 the addition of "wind breaks" in all corners to seal the stadium for heating, added to this problem. The shaded environment and lack of air have led to development of algae. Diclorophen and aeration is used to manage this build up.
Maintenance throughout the year is dependent on the event schedule, condition of the pitch and weather. The calendar frequently changes during the season with additional events. The main aim is to reduce the weight applied to the pitch. Therefore, pedestrian machines are used whenever possible. Two Dennis G860s are the main tools and used for a range of tasks.
Due to the success of Parken, and the intention of increasing the event calendar, we are currently considering options to maximise the stadium's potential. The pitch restricts the variety and number of possible events. As previously stated, the addition of the roof gives us the opportunity to attract a wider variety of events, all to the detriment of the pitch. So far scheduled this year, we have 5 concerts, a dinner party, speedway and the regular football programme.
Returfing the pitch is a quick fix option. It has been proposed that, during the winter this year, the pitch will be covered for 2 months and possibly 2 weeks in the summer. An ITM portable pitch system is the long-term practical solution and we are considering the ITM option. Developments within the artificial industry are being monitored, but artificial may reduce our event options.
Increasing events place additional stress on the pitch. Maintaining the pitch to a high standard within the event schedule can lead to "non text book" practices. Continually forcing the plant can encourage problems in other areas.
Over the past 12 months investigations into the various options have been ongoing. The coming years will be interesting and challenging at Parken.