Posted by: Greg Whately, Senior Technical Consultant
In order to maximise commercial success, modern stadiums are under pressure to be multi-use, hosting a variety of events in addition to their core purpose of being a home for elite sport. Opening facilities to the neighbouring community is also important, providing access for a wide range of people to sporting opportunities and more.
This approach is a real plus point for stadiums and enables large scale investments in sporting facilities to have a holistic positive impact and long-lasting legacy. However, there are significant challenges in being able to maintain a pristine surface that meets the needs of high-level sport, and then hosting a concert or event with tens of thousands of people using the pitch and potentially covering it for significant periods of time with heavy staging, lighting and AV equipment.
Having a retractable pitch, such as the one at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, provides the opportunity to host events and sports such as American Football on the artificial pitch, bringing out the natural turf overlay for EPL games.
A more traditional approach to multi-use strategies is to hold concerts in the off-season and then re-seed the pitch, or to re-turf between events. Using a turf farm to do this means that the stadium can go from a music venue to an elite sports venue in a matter of days. Croke Park in Dublin showcases how this can be done with great success, recently hosting big names such as Ed Sheeran and Garth Brooks in the midst of GAA fixtures.
Croke Park actually has its own turf farm just 30 minutes from the stadium, giving them full control over schedules and re-turfing and enabling them to be a truly multi-use stadium all year round. Greg Whately, STRI’s Senior Technical Consultant works hand in hand with the team at Croke Park, advising them throughout the season to help manage risk and protect the playing surface, as well as overseeing quality at the turf farm and the re-laying of the pitch.
So, what does someone working closely with a multi-use stadium think the future looks like as demand increases to open up facilities and maximise revenue?
“The reality is we are likely to see multi-use stadiums or venues become the norm, with the number of events each stadium hosts likely to increase, as long as there is time within the already busy schedule of fixtures. The flexibility of a stadium to host multiple events of different disciplines not only allows for increased revenue but also allows for multiple revenue streams so there is no longer an over reliance on one source of income. The ability of a stadium and its staff to changeover from one event to the next in a tight time frame is a significant factor in whether a multi-use venue will become a success. Over time this means we could see a real shift in recruitment requirements for a stadium, with retention of good staff with a variety of skillsets becoming even more crucial to success. It also impacts heavily on the role of the head groundsperson, who is often called upon to provide an assessment of the risks to balance against the predicted additional income, and the need for scientific evidence and data to back up these assessments is a necessity.
“Changeover in events, especially those that include a change of surface with limited time available, often only a few days, will always carry some risk, but with meticulous planning, expert knowledge and experience we can mitigate that risk and ensure that no matter what the event, it will be a success.”