The Powerleague Wembley City project, officially unveiled in mid-April, is Powerleague Fives Ltd's fourth site in the capital, and offers both 5 and 7-a-side football on leading edge artificial turf.
This latest, and most high profile, of the company's football centres, boasts 3G rubber crumb pitch technology, as well as attractive bar/lounge area and changing rooms, plus patio, laid with sand-filled artificial grass.
Established originally as 'Pitz' in 1988 in Paisley, seven miles east of Glasgow, Powerleague has become the largest operator in the world of small-sided pitches and the self-confessed 'Champions of 5-a-side'.
A world away from its pilot, first generation, small-sided artificial pitch of the late 1980s - the first of its kind in the UK - Powerleague has burgeoned to a bustling national network.
Its portfolio now numbers forty-five state-of-the-art football centres across the UK, including the biggest of its kind in Europe - Powerleague Trafford with twenty-three pitches.
It is Powerleague Wembley City, though, that is the feather in their cap in a sport whose participants have now overtaken 11-a-side football in Britain in terms of player numbers.
Strong partnerships have played a pivotal role in Powerleague's success - no better exemplified than in its nine-year relationship with Support in Sport (SIS) the manufacturer, supplier and installer of every one of its developments over that time.
SIS were to extend their service involvement still further with the Wembley project, as the remit for the build was to make this one 'a little bit special', with vibrant colours and key sponsors ensuring that each of the seven pitches (six 5-a-side and one 7-a-side) carried its own unique identity and character.
"Given the profile of the site, and the fact that players were competing in the shadow of Wembley stadium, meant that we felt it important to create a unique experience," explains Tony Scott, Powerleague's Development Manager.
"Part of this experience was set around our key sponsor partners, headline sponsor Lucozade, Nike, Nivea for men, Carlsberg and SIS, who each had their own pitch with their own designs," he continues.
"We liked the idea that visitors could play on the Nike pitch, or the Lucozade pitch, with on-pitch sponsorship adding to the atmosphere and excitement and sense of occasion. It's about creating a strong brand that would do justice to such a fantastic location." Each of the sponsors has a bespoke designed surface with logos and colour schemes of their choice.
Powerleague's confidence in SIS's design and installation know-how has proved long standing, says Support in Sport's Chief Executive Officer, George Mullan. "We have installed or renovated every one of its sites and we enjoy an excellent working relationship with the company, one founded on the depth of knowledge and quality of build that we can deliver as part of our one-stop-shop service."
"Everything is UK manufactured, including the bespoke surface that is designed to stand up to intensive use, and our fencing system, robust enough to soak up heavy usage."
Location is everything as they say, and Tony Scott is expecting the new site to be hugely popular, not least because of its Wembley Stadium backdrop. Yet, as was witnessed with real turf at the home of English football, if the bread and butter of the development - the pitch - isn't right, all the good work elsewhere can be compromised.
This latest venture challenged the expertise of SIS, whose credentials would be put to the test with the desire to have not only the latest 3G rubber crumb pitches but also an imposing sponsor focus.
The company rose to the challenge, and the project is now complete, with the construction of a two-tiered pitch layout, which also saw the installation of a UK-first demountable fencing system that has been specifically designed for the site, utilising removable modules to provide a more open plan profile to pitches during events.
Planning permission was granted, at the tail end of last year, for site work to proceed on, what was, an existing storage ground for Wembley Stadium. "The levels were all over the place when we started, so the first job was to bring them up to a standard and establish the two tiers, with four lower pitches and three upper," explains Simon Mroczek, Contracts Manager for SIS.
"There needed to be as little excavation work as possible as we didn't want to dig up too much of the existing concrete. Instead, we imported 3,000 tonnes of recycled infill to prepare the levels for laying drainage at 10m centres," he adds.
"Before the pitch could be laid, the levels of the original site had to be adjusted because two large pre-cast concrete slabs and heaps of spoil had been placed there after the construction of Wembley Stadium."
"We had to break out sections of slab areas to incorporate new formed pads for laying level retaining wall units, then build up the upper and lower levels, installing a 28m total length of 1.5m high retaining wall for the former, and 1m height for the 106m long retaining wall to divide the two levels."
"Over several weeks, we imported 3,000 tonnes of recycled 25-80mm diameter stone infill, laid to a depth of between 100mm and 1m. Drainage was laid using 80mm laterals at 10m centres, connecting to a 160mm main drain, positioned at the base of the central retaining wall and feeding into Wembley's storm drain."
"The woven geotextile membrane laid on top separates the lower layer from the upper, the sub-base - Type 1X stone, which, once laid, provides at least a 30% void to assist drainage from the surface. To minimise tolerances, we laser-graded the sub-base to 10mm over a 3m straight edge, before laying the 40mm deep dynamic layer of 2 to 6mm stone," adds Simon.
Another geotextile was laid, this time non-woven, to provide added rigidity and restrict movement of the material, followed by the Superior 50 3G synthetic turf. SIS installed the synthetic surface, which is particularly well suited to five-a-side football having been tested to 50,000 Lisport cycles for proven performance.
"The 50mm high polypropylene pile is first infilled with single-sized specialist sand to a specified depth, which helps with the durability of the surface and keeps sufficient weight anchorage on turf," Simon explains, "then a final layer of high graded recycled rubber tyre crumb is installed to specified depths."
"For maintaining the surface, we recommend using a pedestrian rotary brush unit once a week to brush and redistribute the excess rubber crumbs back into main playing areas, and also to lift the fibres of the turf."
The Superior 50, long-pile fibrillated carpet is claimed to be the most technologically advanced available. Its non-sand, rubber filled surface is designed to be skin friendly, allowing for the best footballing experience without many of the painful pitfalls of earlier synthetic designs. "Older models were often extremely hard on the knees and could be detrimental to players in tackles, and when the skin met the carpet," Simon continues. "The 3G pitch negates these issues and replicates the natural turf experience far more effectively."
The design stages on this occasion also drew in a third party to accommodate the extensive logoing that adorns each carpet. A Dutch company was tasked with the job of weaving the logos and signage into the synthetic turf.
Once the carpets were manufactured, they were shipped to Holland with each of the sponsor's designs, then returned to the UK for final installation.
As with other Powerleague projects, the relationship with SIS will continue long after the work is complete - the installer offering continuing maintenance that will ensure any repairs to the carpets are completed, and allowing the footballing experience to remain as impressive in time as it is now.
In tandem with this, a regular maintenance regime will be conducted by Powerleague's in-house team, following care guidance, based on regular brushing, set out by SIS.