Project Name: The Drainage and Renovation of an Existing Football Pitch
Client: Houghton Fields Association
Client Type: Community
Contractor: J Pugh-Lewis
Overall Budget: £150k
Funder: Sport England and Partnership funding
- The main football pitch at Houghton Playing Fields had been suffering from recurring waterlogging leading to saturated surface conditions. These conditions had contributed to the cancellation of fixtures with the pitches unplayable for extended periods of time, more so during the winter months.
- Other issues affecting the performance of the pitch was poor surface uniformity, presenting areas whereby surface water could accumulate, in turn leading to a loss of soil structure, increased wear and tear and poor playing conditions.
- The pitch is home to the senior and junior football team, as such the criteria for the natural turf pitch development was to increase the amount of available hours of usage per week to accommodate the demanding fixture schedule. This would be achieved through improving both the drainage status of the pitch and the agronomic condition. Issues highlighted by the various stakeholders along with any other pertinent site features that would affect the proposed renovation were investigated by TGMS during a detailed site visit.
Key Technical Issues
- Soil assessments indicated that the site is characterised by a high clay content. Clay significantly and adversely affects the rate at which water can percolate through the profile; drainage rates through this material were below the recommended Sport England baseline guidance of 5 mm/hr.
- A very old tile and mole drainage scheme was identified onsite (dating back to 1955). Due to the age of the system, it was deemed that the drainage scheme would no longer be efficacious in discharging surface and groundwater; this corresponded with pitch conditions during periods of inclement weather or after heavy rainfall events (waterlogged).
- The existing drainage did however provide an outfall which could be utilised for any new drainage scheme.
- During the soil sampling process, stone content was observed to be high throughout the soil profile. Stones pose a significant injury risk to patrons using the facilities if not dealt with properly during the construction phase. It is essential that stones are removed from the near-surface profile of the pitch to reduce the risk of laceration and impact injuries.
- Significant undulations/hollows were evident across the pitch, in addition to standing water, these undulations affected performance and presented significant injury risks; attention to these areas was paramount to provide a more even and consistent playing surface.
- Agronomic condition was moderate with the sward consisting mainly of Poa annua (Annual Meadow Grass). Poa annua is a shallow rooting grass more susceptible to drought and disease and had weakened the sward sufficiently to allow the ingress of tap rooted and creeping weed species.
- An intensive drainage scheme was installed comprising a primary system supplemented with a secondary system (sand grooves) which enabled the club to fulfil fixtures through the winter period without long term closure. Prior to the installation of a drainage scheme, this would not have been possible.
- The undulations present onsite were removed via surface regrading and cultivation works which provided a playing surface more in line with Sport England guidance (a tolerance of no more than a 20 mm deviation beneath a 3.0 m straight edge).
- A stone removal operation was applied following cultivation works to remove all stones >20 mm in any dimension from at least the upper 100 mm depth of topsoil.
- The existing vegetation was stripped and reseeded with a sports specific Perennial Ryegrass following topsoil cultivation, surface grading and stone removal. The aim was to seed grasses more tolerant to wear and tear and drought in the absence of an irrigation system
- A well-structured intensive maintenance programme was implemented to maintain the pitch following significant investment (12 month statutory Sport England maintenance period), including recommended future maintenance solutions and agronomic support.
- The condition of the pitch was significantly improved, client reports indicate no fixtures were lost over the subsequent winter period and the pitch exceeded all expectations.
“Throughout the project communication between TGMS and myself was first rate, Matt Young always responded to questions straight away and gave honest and sound advice. We were in a difficult place with a virtually unplayable pitch and now are playing on a great surface which is the envy of the league. I would unreservedly recommend TGMS.” – Iain Munro – President Houghton Rangers FC