Busy schedule at stadium
By David Markham
The much admired McAlpine Stadium at Huddersfield is one of the busiest in the country which is why Groundsman Phil Redgwick is pleased there will be a gap in the demanding fixture list next spring to do some essential renovation work.
He said: "Next spring we are going to take off the top surface and start again and hopefully get rid of the meadow grass. We try to do it every two years."
McAlpine is the home of Football League club Huddersfield Town and Huddersfield Giants, the Super League club, who, of course, nowadays play through the summer.
There are some 70 football and rugby league matches at the stadium every year and in November the McAlpine staged one of the three Rugby League Test matches between Great Britain and Australia and are set to stage the World Club Challenge.
Phil said: "Our last Football League match is due to be on May 1 but if Huddersfield Town get into the play-offs there will be a play-off semi-final to be played before the football season is over. That will, of course, cut down the amount of time we have to do our work.
We hope to have three weeks to do the renovation work before Huddersfield Giants Rugby League club start playing again. The Rugby League try to help stadiums that stage both football and Rugby League by giving us a break in the rugby fixture list. Hewitt's sports turf from Leicester will do the work for us.
There is a certain amount of plastic - Desso grass - on the pitch - three per cent in total - to make it hard wearing. It means that we don't get divots - just scrape marks and a scaring of the surface. The Desso grass holds the surface together and is sowed nine inches deep. It is essential when we have such a demanding programme of matches.
We were the first - or one of the first - to use Desso grass when we opened the stadium eight ago. It was guaranteed for ten years by the manufacturers so the guarantee has two years to run. You can't tell it is there. Taking the top of the pitch helps us to get the Desso back to the top of the surface and then we will re-seed with natural grass.
The surface is sand based which helps keep the pitch dry. The only trouble with a sand based surface is that any feed you apply seeps through so we have to feed it pretty often - once every five weeks. We have to keep up to that.
The weather has been very dry and the last time we applied feed to the pitch we ended up using sprinklers to wash it in. The pitch is also short of calcium - that is a drawback of sand based pitches so we have to apply lime to try to maintain the level of calcium."
Phil's equipment includes two mastiffs for cutting and rolling although he and his staff don't ride with them - they always walk with them. He also has a verti-drainer, a multi core machine, a Vicon spreader for fertiliser and a compact tractor, but he would like a bigger verti-draining machine and a new tractor.Like a growing number of Groundsmen, Phil is concerned at the damage done by footballers in the up to an hour's kick around before the match followed by the warm down afterwards. It means that the pitch can be in use for three consecutive hours on match days.