Chelsea's brush with success
By Sue Meeken
Two versatile Dennis G860 mowers with interchangeable turf brush attachments are keeping Chelsea FC's famous Stamford Bridge ground in a condition worthy of a team near the top of the Premier League.
The new pedestrian mowers complement the Club's existing fleet of smaller, but similar, Dennis 'FT610' units that are used to maintain the hallowed turf. Delivering a precision finish, the cutting reels can be replaced by specially made 'cassettes', enabling several essential grounds care tasks to be performed by the same power unit.
Chelsea's purchase of the 86cm wide (34in) G860s comes during a programme of huge improvements at the stadium. This is part of the plan devised by owner Roman Abramovich, the Russian billionaire, to build the Club into one of the world's top teams.
Three people look after the pitch, comprising Head Groundsman Jason Griffin with Assistant Head Groundsmen Kevin Fowler and Groundsman Scott Tingley (the latter being the son of former Wembley Stadium Head Groundsman, Steve Tingley). The turf is cut daily in the summer but in the winter, when growing conditions are less favourable, the grass is mown once a week.
Kevin Fowler says the Dennis mowers "give us a quality of cut that is second to none. We use pedestrian equipment because it is lighter in weight. Ride-on mowers would cause compaction and leave tyre tracks. It takes longer, but we do whatever it takes to make the pitch perfect. Time is not an issue - our task is all about presentation, and providing the team with a great playing surface."
Kevin and his colleagues were impressed by the multi-tasking FT units, the first ever developed to accept interchangeable attachments. The FT's are still used with verti-cutting and sorrel roller cassettes, but the wider G860s give a higher work-rate for pre-match preparation.
Chelsea has bought soft brush cassettes for their G860s, to enhance pitch quality. Working as a pair, one member of grounds staff uses a unit with the brush to groom the pitch first, leaving the grass blades vertical. Then, a second operator follows with the other G860, incorporating the six-blade cutting cylinder, to leave a precision finish and a sharp stripe.
"Thanks to the attachments, one machine can be used for many tasks," says Kevin Fowler, "doing away with the expense of buying other equipment. It only takes a couple of minutes to change cassettes out on the pitch."
The grounds care team are also impressed by the careful design of the G860, including features to limit vibration and a safety cut-out device.
The further investment in Dennis machinery comes at an exciting time for Stamford Bridge. Chelsea has spent £1.5m on a new pitch reinforced with polypropylene fibres, and with undersoil heating. A remote-controlled waterproof pitch cover protects against downpours and the resultant drier grass stays healthier and resistant to invasion from annual meadow grass.
Dennis contact: Tel +44 (0)1332 824777 email firstname.lastname@example.org, website www.dennisuk.com
Picture: Chelsea FC's Two Steps To Heaven. Assistant Head Groundsman Kevin Fowler uses the Dennis G860 with the soft brush cassette to remove debris and lift the grass blades upright, and then Groundsman Scott Tingley follows with another G860 with the cutting cassette in place. Result - a precision cut and a sharp stripe.