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Souters met tight deadline to install ‘elastic’ pitch

news_item6Glasgow Rangers Football Club’s pitch is looking – and playing – extremely well this season. And this is, in no small part, due to extensive work carried out by the team from the Cumbernauld branch of Souters Sports.

In just seven weeks during the summer, its staff worked day and night to install a new pitch at Ibrox, which features a 100mm Fibrelastic rootzone from Mansfield sand – a first for Scotland and only the third pitch of its kind in Britain.

A specialist sports turf contractor, which offers top-notch sports turf construction, reconstruction, drainage, aeration and maintenance of all natural grass playing services, Souters Sports operates from three UK bases – Cumbernauld, Cheshire and Sunderland – making it ideally placed to complete the Rangers project successfully.

And the club also had every confidence that the company had the expertise and professionalism to complete what was an ambitious project for such a small work window to the highest possible standard and in time for the start of this season’s Scottish Premier League kick-off in August. Rangers’ confidence wasn’t misplaced – Souters delivered on both scores.

“The original high specification pitch that we put in 17 years ago had come to the end of its natural life, so we had to invest in a brand new generation pitch with a completely new rootzone to get the surface right again,” explains head groundsman David Roxburgh.

He adds that Fibrelastic has been extensively tested by the club’s consultant agronomist for both stability and consistency across the whole pitch surface. “It’s vital that we look at the best ways to build and maintain such a high performance sports surface.”

“After removing the old turf, the upper rootzone and part of the lower rootzone, to a depth of 150mm, a new pure sand rootzone was installed up to within 100mm of the final surface,” says project manager Robert Tait.

“We then filled the top 100mm with the new Fibrelastic product – sand mixed with synthetic fibres that contain a percentage of elastic. Grass seed – Rigby Taylor R14 as specified by Glasgow Rangers FC and the STRI – was then sown into this on June 3.”

The pitch may be ‘elastic’ but there was no room to stretch the work completion deadline. Souters drew upon all their experience and expertise to ensure that the project ran smoothly. Despite the tight timescale that put his team under immense pressure, the project was a huge success, according to Robert. “Our staff rose to the challenge, working long hours and, on occasions, through the night under flood lights to meet the vital deadline,” he says. “And we did it, without compromising the quality of the work and while, at the same time, maintaining a professional approach.”

Rangers’ also took this opportunity to upgrade the irrigation system, with work carried out by Turf Irrigation Services (Scotland). A Rainbird pop-up system was replaced – by hand – with a Hunter system.

“This allows individual sprinklers to be turned on and off remotely using one controller – ideal when irrigating the pitch during a tight ‘watering window’, such as immediately before a match and during half time, when players are also warming up on the pitch,” explains the company’s design engineer Rob Smith.

The new sprinklers also have a wider ‘throw’ – 27 metres compared to 17 metres, offering a total irrigation width of 54 metres.

The work had to be carried out by hand, and without the use of heavy machinery, to avoid damaging the pitch’s under-soil heating system. The new irrigation system was actually installed beneath this and this phase of the work was complete in just seven days. It was important that the work was finished on time to ensure that Souters could install and seed the new pitch in good time to produce a pitch fit for play at the start of the season.

And by August it was more than just fit for play – it was one of the best pitches in Britain. And thanks to Souters work, the Fibrelastic rootzone and David Roxburghe and his team’s on-going efforts and expertise, it’s set to remain that way for many years to come.