Let There Be Light At Sunderland!
Lastweek a number of Groundsmen were invited to the Stadium Of Light for a demonstration of a lighting system designed to help with new and existing grass growth.
The company, Stadion Grow Lighting (SGL), held a daylong presentation detailing different aspects of how it all works. This system has been trialled at Sunderland since September, along with the help of Adrian Partridge, the clubs Head Groundsman since 1999 and his assistant at the stadium.
Just like Manchester, Sunderland isn't famed for its tropical climate and in the case of the Stadium Of Light, there actually isn't much light at this time of year reaching the playing surface. A fantastic new stadium, holding 49,000 people, but no open corners and little or no direct sunlight. But for some translucent sheeting on the stands, there would be very little light in the stadium at all.
The main stadium pitch is a fibre-reinforced pitch and the training ground has one identical pitch, along with ten other root zone constructed pitches, which are built on top of heavy clay. There is a certain amount of training allowed on the main pitch, but this can range from once a week to three times a week at different times during the season.
Fortunately for Adrian, the pitch is used only for football, which allows the presentation of the pitch to be in first class condition for the high profile Premier League games. Weather is the key problem in the North East and the pitch does suffer from very cold winters, certainly worse than we get in Manchester.
Adrian said, "Although there have only been two frosts so far this winter here and no snow as yet, we have encountered a very wet season to date". To counteract the problem of the rain, Adrian and his assistant multicore the pitch regularly during the wetter months to a depth of 4 inches, the maximum working depth allowed, due to the undersoil heating pipe system that is close to the surface. There is also a full pop-up irrigation system in place. The pitch is cut using two Allett Buffalo's.
"The system", said Adrian, "has been an unbelievable success". This demonstration was set up for the rest of us to be equally impressed.
The main reason the system was devised is to combat the ever-increasing problem of shade and reduced light problems in modern day stadia-the problem is a major concern in some of our latest stadiums as more seating is introduced. The Sunderland stadium clearly demonstrates this very well as witnessed by the group assembled for the demonstration. The group included Consultants, Contractors and Groundsmen from the top Premier League clubs as well as one of the smaller nationwide clubs.
The delegates were allowed to walk freely under the lighted trial area. We were informed that the temperature under these lights is 3 degrees warmer than the rest of the pitch and five times more grass clippings are being collected from this area than from the whole of the rest of the pitch. Adrian then took out two soil profiles, one from the trial area, one from outside of the trial area. The results showed that the roots are far improved where the light and heat treatment is taking place. It was interesting to hear that the light and heat that was radiating was comparable with a sunny March afternoon.
The 8 lighting units sit on 16 metre wide frames and the lights are 2.5 metres above the ground, which allows you the freedom to walk underneath and do any required maintenance as well. The frames are moved about on 360 degree turning wheels which mean ease of movement for the four operators needed-this particular area can be set up easily with the four staff and when not in use is stored in the grounds of a local factory at the back of one of the stands.
As well as this, and despite it being December there was new seed germinating under the gaze of the lighting:The afternoon was rounded off with talks about the setting up of such a system within a stadium environment and different techniques of using artificial light to aid the process of growing and establishing grass. I hope to follow this article with a more in-depth article from George Daville.