With a view to signing a five-year preferred supplier agreement with local Ransomes Jacobsen dealer, Ernest Doe and Sons Ltd, a fleet of turf maintenance equipment was delivered to Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club's new £93 million AMEX stadium, just prior to the beginning of the new football season.
The fleet of new equipment includes the all-electric Jacobsen Eclipse 322 triple mower, which will be used for general mowing of the new Fibrelastic pitch, which was seeded on April 3 this year and which hosted the first game, the Sussex Senior Cup Final between Eastbourne Borough and Brighton & Hove Albion on July 16.
Steve Winterburn has been head groundsman for 10 years, starting his long association with the club as a consultant in September 2001, before being appointed full-time three months later. He has been with the club through its nomadic phase and now has five full-time staff with a further three at the training facility at the nearby University of Sussex.
"We are conscious of our environmental impact and that was part of the thinking when we decided to purchase the electric version of the Jacobsen Eclipse," he said. "It has adjustable frequency of cut control, which means we can vary the number of cuts per metre for different grass conditions.
Obviously there's no risk of an oil leak, but more importantly there's no emissions and no noise pollution. We've had a lot of media interest in the stadium, with numerous TV and film crews here, together with journalists doing interviews. These are mainly done pitch-side and under normal circumstance we would have to stop mowing. Because the Eclipse is virtually silent, we can continue without disrupting the filming."
Three Ransomes Mastiff walk-behind stadium mowers were also included in the package. These have a special 9-blade cylinder, ideal for sports pitch mowing, and are used specifically for match-day pitch preparation, leaving an attractive stripe across the grass. Also delivered to the club was an E-Z-GO electric powered ST400 turf utility vehicle, an Iseki TG5470 general purpose tractor, a Cushman Turf Truckster with demountable Hardi sprayer, a Turfco 1540EC top dresser and from Wiedenmann, a GXi turf aerator and Terra brush.
"I've received tremendous support from the Chairman, Tony Bloom, and Directors," Winterburn added. "I was allowed to work closely with the architects, KSS Design Group, to ensure that the grounds maintenance requirements were designed-in at the beginning of the process and we've really benefitted from that. We have modern facilities under the stand for storage and maintenance; I have my own office overlooking the pitch and we have our own mess room and showers.
"We've come a long way from being homeless in 1997 when the Goldstone ground was sold, to ground sharing with Gillingham for a couple of years, before returning to the Withdean stadium here in Brighton in 1999. We were then subject to the longest public enquiry in British history over planning for AMEX stadium, which thankfully was granted in our favour.
"Now the next phase of development is underway with the proposed new £15 million training facility, which will be large enough to accommodate at least seven full size pitches and two smaller pitches as part of our academy facilities. It will also have an artificial pitch, an indoor facility and support structures for the management team, senior and academy players and possible residential accommodation.
"This is an exciting time to be involved with the Seagulls and for me personally, as head of the grounds maintenance team. One thing is certain, we'll need more equipment and partners like the Ernest Doe team who can meet, and exceed, our needs."
For more information about Ransomes Jacobsen visit: www.ransomesjacobsen.com