SportsHub Pte Ltd (SHPL) has decided that the pitch at the National Stadium will be all-natural grass after earlier reports that it would be reverting to artificial grass.
However, the existing hybrid turf will not be removed but instead have the new pitch be laid out on top of it.
However, one expert expressed his opinion to Channel News Asia on whether if this was a good idea. Ronald Fream, founder of Golfplan – Dale & Ramsey Golf Course Architecture, said: “You don’t want to have the old grass underneath. You want to take the old grass off and get rid of it. If the grass is laid on a week or 10 days before an event, they are not going to have the penetration of the roots into the sub-base to provide a firm, solid football-standard stadium.
When the S$833,000 Desso GrassMaster hybrid grass pitch was first announced to be used in the National Stadium in May earlier this year, SportsHub’s outgoing senior director of Stadia, Greg Gillin said the hybrid grass solution was durable and cost-effective, compared to lay-and-play natural grass surfaces.
Now SportsHub has had a change of heart – it will implement a lay-and-play solution to solve its turf woes, ahead of the SEA Games in June next year.
In a statement on 20 December, SportsHub said the grass took too long to sink roots and is not robust enough for multi-purpose, intensive usage. It has now decided to grow a natural pitch in a plant nursery. When mature, the natural turf will then be rolled up, transported to and laid in the National Stadium on top of the existing hybrid turf.
However the pitch raised some eyebrows earlier in August, when the grass was clearly not growing well and players were concerned that the excessive amount of sand would get into the eyes of players and potentially cause injuries.
In October, the New Zealand Rugby Union cancelled the match between the rugby teams, Maori All Blacks and Asia-Pacific Barbarians due to the poor quality of the pitch that has drawn numerous complaints from sporting teams.
SportsHub said it would continue to use the lights worth S$1.5 million which were brought in earlier to keep the grass pitch healthy.
It will also maintain a second pitch with a larger surface area at the nursery. This pitch will be deployed for sports, such as cricket, that require a larger surface, and as a replacement when the first pitch is worn out.
SportsHub has said that it has not decided on the selection of the nursery, but it has chosen Eclipse from Motz Group to ensure the turf can be transported onto the existing pitch.
SportsHub added that the lay-and-play solution has been adopted successfully in many stadiums around the world, and tested in major events such as the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, and the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
Although it is said that SportsHub will bear the cost of implementing the new turf solution, but some have expressed their concern that the private company will pass the additional expenses to rent and end consumers.