Renovations at Wimbledon
By Eddie Seaward
This year's tournament went very well. We had no contentious issues regarding the condition of the courts or the way they played. In fact we had a lot of positive feedback stating how consistent they all were. That's good news to me. Our objectives are not to produce fast or slow courts but to provide consistent playing surfaces. One Australian player even commented that they were too good, he had not experienced one bad bounce all tournament!
Each year I employ additional staff to work alongside my permanent team during the Wimbledon fortnight. In total we have about 30 people, who are responsible for the courts preparations maintenance and repairs. The majority of these remain until all the renovations have been completed. Renovations of the courts are planned and programmed in accordance with the playing schedule of the club. This year's renovations have been made easier by the fact that we have had no Davies Cup matches to play, which gave me the opportunity to start the renovations of both Centre court and Number 1 court earlier.
We Koro fraise mowed both main courts, taking off 10mm of surface debris from the Centre court and 5mm off Number 1 court. We then aerated and lightly top-dressed to restore surface levels and over-seeded with a 50/50 mix of Aberimp and Aberelf ryegrass. The ryegrass germination was very quick, especially as we were able to irrigate efficiently during periods of warm weather. We continued the programme of fraise mowing on courts 3, 4, 5 and 17.
I am very pleased with the way the renovations have been completed. We have managed to establish a very good sward on all the courts and are currently maintaining this new grass at 14mm. Establishing a good sward before the winter is essential. I have also been pleased with the continued good performance of our palleted match play court. It has responded well and performs equally as well as the other courts. The only notable difference has been its tendency to dry out a little quicker than the others.
Work has started to reinforce the soil medium of these grass areas. The existing surface will be replaced with a reinforced sand rootzone turf product, with the aim of providing an aesthetic, manageable green open space that will provide all year round car parking. It is always very reassuring for me when we have managed to complete the court renovations early and efficiently. Being able to maximise the benefits of the warm soil and air temperatures during August and September is essential. It is imperative to establish a good sward before the onset of the winter period. It gives you a confident start for next year.
As always, I am also busy on the PR front. I believe it is important that turf professionals attend and meet up with fellow colleagues to share and keep up to date with the latest industry developments and technologies. I have been working with many institutions and colleges in promoting and endorsing developments in turf grass management.
Again this year I will be attending the National Turfgrass Conference in Southport in November. It is a very enjoyable experience, especially being able to meet so many turfgrass professionals from both the UK and overseas.