The Platt lane problem area
Following reseeding on the 29th April, we realised that weeks later that it was becoming virtually impossible to grow grass in front of the Platt lane stand, we have not been helped with the poor temperatures and heavy downpours during May and June, which has meant that we have put 24 x25kg bags of seed on the pitch to date. To try to get the grass to grow in this area we have tried germination sheets and even taking off the roof panels to get more sunlight and air movement to the area, as you can see below.
Another problem we have is heavy water logging in this particular area, due to excessive compaction caused by concert stages which have been put up in the past in this area, right to the edge of the eighteen yard box. In the past when we have had these concerts, only basic renovation work was carried out afterwards, meaning that no intense work was carried out after having such heavy weight on the pitch.
Below the grass surface, there is barely 1" of root depth due to the black layer burning off the roots of the plant, and the constant water logging and anaerobic conditions. We dug a sample piece out of the worst affected area to show the black layer problem is close to the surface as
The black layer is preventing us from promoting any new growth in this area and the waterlogged surface just seems to feed the black layer even more causing a soggy surface which is difficult to get machinery on in damp or wet weather.
Once we had identified the problem, we set about trying to solve it, so we called in Breton King of Ecosolve, suppliers of the 'drill n fill' system, along with Richard Sharrock, who had performed the same operation at Manchester United as well. The 'drill n fill' would leave no disturbance to the surface and would make the best of the existing surface for what is to be our final year at the stadium before we move.
The 'drill n fill' would aid drainage and help new grass to germinate in the wider pore spaces that the sports sand mix would give us. The deciding factor would inevitably be the price, but to their credit even though this is our final year at Maine road, the club has allowed us to get this work done where it would have been easier for them to ask us to make do for the final season.
The major plus in our favour was that the club has just been promoted to the premier league and with a bigger television deal available it was felt that spending the money now would help to guarantee future revenue from the games the following season being televised. The 'drill n fill' operation cost less than £4,000 including the hire of the machine, machine operators and materials.
I also spoke to the Ground staff at Ipswich town and Southampton to ask their opinions on the 'drill n fill' system as they have also used it at their stadiums, all gave a favourable response, saying it had been effective for them.
The areas we treated are at the south end of the ground, 78 yards across by 18 yards deep, which is covered by the two large shades in the picture below.
We also treated the area at the north end of the pitch, which is 78 yards by 8 yards, which as you will see from the following picture is the area covered by the dark shade of the grass.
In the eleven years I have worked at Maine road, I have never seen this area of the pitch looking this bad at this time of year.
We started work on the following Monday by cutting short the areas that were to be treated so that a good product application was possible. The vertidrain holes were still evident so these helped to take in some of the materials as well. The materials had been delivered in advance to ensure a quick start.
While the contractors did this, we cut the pitch to the necessary height for the work to be carried out.
The work soon started on the areas where we had already cut. The machine drilled 24 holes at a time,8 inches deep and 1 inch wide and then backfilled it with the sports sand.
We knew this would be the case, and that is why we vertidrained beforehand, when the contractors had moved on to another area we set about levelling the mounds out, meaning any excess spoil was worked in to the vertidrain holes.
When we had levelled off the area, it started to look a lot more like a football pitch, much to everyone's relief!
After each section was completed, we ran the pump on the underground heating and the irrigation and walked the areas to check for any flooding on the pitch which may have been caused by the machine breaking the underground piping.
The contractors, along with ourselves, worked right through till 9.30pm the same evening to make sure that the work was completed and that they didn't have to come back the following day to finish off any areas. After checking for any burst pipes, and fortunately
We are confident that this will see us through what is to be our final season at the ground before we move to our new stadium 3 miles away from Maine road. It was a long day but hopefully the hard work in what was a good team effort by everyone involved will come good in the end and all that was left for us to do was go home, which when you have a view from your front door like I do, fortunately doesn't extend the working day with travel time!!