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Pitch perfect?

9 November 2015

Options for playing surface at new stadium discussed

During his programme notes for the Forest Green game, Chief Executive Erik Samuelson talked about options for the pitch at a new stadium and praised the efforts of those who maintain the playing surface at our current home.

For those supporters who may have missed the article, it is reproduced in full below.

A couple of weeks ago, I visited Rotherham United’s New York Stadium along with members of the project team for our new stadium. We went for the obvious reason that it is a relatively new stadium, completed in 2012, and while its capacity is higher than our proposed phase-one capacity, Rotherham faced many of the issues which we are, or will be, facing.

Fans who visited Rotherham when we played there in the 2012/13 season may recall that the stadium is surrounded by a substantial open space, which is mainly car parking. Our planned stadium will have no equivalent large area, and although we are looking at how we can create spaces for fans to congregate within the stadium, I envy Rotherham the space have.

We were warmly welcomed and given a lot of time to look at all aspects of the stadium design. We discussed how the stadium operates in practice and identified useful ideas for us to consider incorporating in our design. For example, they have a clever way of changing how they allocate space for games at which relatively few visiting fans are expected. We also covered operational issues, such as the practicality of selling tickets in the club shop on a match day. Overall the visit was very worthwhile, and we received open and frank feedback from Rotherham about a few things they might do differently if they were starting again.

A behind-closed-doors game was taking place while we were there, and we talked about the pitch and how good it looked. We explored the pros, cons and costs of undersoil heating, which they had chosen not to install, and spent time with the groundsman discussing the resources they put into keeping the pitch in such good shape.

All of this highlighted the issues we are considering regarding the pitch we would want in a new stadium. Our design approach has been to avoid closing down any options; for example, in the event that we chose to install undersoil heating at some future date, the necessary infrastructure would be in place to minimise the disruption and cost.

Another key consideration is what happens when we expand the stadium to accommodate the additional fans we will attract as we move up the football pyramid. Since there isn’t any open space surrounding the stadium, the cranes that will be needed to carry out the work will have to be brought inside the stadium (part of the north stand will be demountable, so as to allow them in). The design team are looking at how this can be done without wrecking the pitch, or at least in a way that minimises any damage. And then there’s the question of how soon we imagine we might need to increase the stadium’s capacity …

All this made me think about our current pitch, here at the Cherry Red Records Stadium. Many fans will remember that in the early days of our ownership of the stadium, the pitch was awful, with large, sandy bare areas. Over the years we have gradually improved the playing surface, and we took a major step forward when, about three years ago, we recruited Gabor Tanczos (pictured above) as our full-time groundsman.

In the summer of 2014 we carried out the most substantial renovation of the pitch we’ve ever done – urged on by Neal, who naturally wants the best possible surface for the team – and it is better now than ever before.

During the next three or four months, when the grass won’t recover much, we hope that the extra investment of time and money that has gone into the pitch will pay dividends and keep it in good shape for the team. And that is my cue to thank Gabor and the fantastic group of volunteers, led by Dave McKnight, who support him – you’ll see them on the pitch before and after today’s game, quietly working away to make sure that it is as well prepared and repaired as possible.

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