Turf master brings know-how to Yarrow Stadium main pitch project

Where there’s a Will, there’s a way to make Yarrow Stadium’s new turf pitch perfect.

Will Bowden, of New Zealand Turf Management Solutions (NZTMS), is bringing his expertise as a grass guru to work alongside Yarrow Stadium contractor FieldTurfNZ and create tougher hybrid turf surface that will last longer and be friendlier on the environment.

“It’s such an exciting project to create a new pitch on what will be one of the country’s top regional venues and I feel privileged to be a part of this work,” says the turfgrass agronomist. “I’m really proud to be working alongside a top turf team who are creating a world-class pitch.”

Work on the main pitch is continuing in tandem with the repairs to the West Stand as Yarrow Stadium prepares to reopen when the Taranaki Bulls return to their home ground to take on Waikato in the Bunnings NPC on 3 September.

Mr Bowden and FieldTurfNZ are using a host of innovations and hi-tech solutions to make the turf more resilient, more environmentally friendly and easier to maintain including adding a layer of ‘Biochar’, using a GPS-guided laser system to get the pitch level, hi-tech wireless soil water meter sensors and ‘GrassMaster’ hybrid turf.

“The Biochar is a charcoal-like substance and has the benefit of sequestering carbon, retaining nutrients and significantly reducing the amount we need to water the pitch. Our research has shown up to 70% less water can be used to maintain the turf. It’s a great way to make the turf even ‘greener’ and Yarrow Stadium is only the second stadium in the country to use it.”

Having put down a 100mm layer of gravel, beneath about a 200mm sand layer, which includes a 100mm layer of eco-friendly sand/Biochar, work will soon be under way on installing the ‘GrassMaster’ hybrid turf. The natural turf has been sown and next up will be putting in the artificial fibres that will give the pitch a much longer life and short recovery times after games. Similar reinforced turf is already in use at major venues including Auckland’s Eden Park, Wellington’s Sky Stadium and FMG Waikato.

“The pitch is a massive improvement on the old turf and will be a fantastic playing surface for years to come and perfect for rugby, football and a wide range of other sports and events,” adds Mr Bowden.

Mike Nield, Director-Corporate Services at Taranaki Regional Council which owns the venue through the Taranaki Stadium Trust, says the expertise of contractors is second to none. “Will and the team are creating a main pitch that will be a win-win for the community as the quicker recovery time will make it more readily available for local and regional users and it will be better for our environment.”

The project has received funding from the Government’s Infrastructure Covid Recovery Fund. The West Stand will reopen in September this year and the new East Stand is forecast to open in 2024.

Talking turf: fast facts

  • Biochar is a fine-grained, highly porous kind of charcoal. Although it looks a lot like common charcoal, Biochar is produced using a specific process called Pyrolysis to reduce contamination and safely store carbon.
  • GrassMaster hybrid turf offers a lifespan of up to 15 years and 1000 playing hours a year.
  • It’s used on more 640 pitches worldwide including most of the UK’s Premier League clubs.
  • The turf is a blend of natural turf grown through and among artificial fibres.
  • Six wireless sensors, supplied by New Zealand company Groundworx, will check on soil moisture levels and temperatures.
  • The sensors let grounds staff know all the stats they need to keep the main pitch in top-notch condition like water levels and temperature via an app.