Sports Hub: A pitch for the 21st century

Sports Hub: A pitch for the 21st century
Sports Hub’s senior director of stadia Greg Gillin (left) and Desso CEO Alexander Collot d’Escury (right) holding a box containing fibre strips which sink 18cm into the ground at the new National Stadium to provide an anchor for the grass and create a more stable playing surface. This is made possible with the Desso GrassMaster Machine which will blend the fibre strips with real grass. The National Stadium is the first in Asia to use such reinforced grass, at a cost of $800,000.

Alex Ferguson wrote of his disbelief when Chelsea's skipper and talisman, John Terry, slipped on the artificial pitch as he struck the penalty that would have won the Champions League title for the London side.

It was May 21, 2008 at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium, and Terry's shot went wide off the post to give Manchester United a lifeline in the final, which they took, eventually winning 6-5 to leave Terry a sobbing wreck.

A footballer will not suffer such a misfortune at Singapore's new National Stadium - at least not because of a problem with the playing surface.

The first in Asia to use the reinforced grass of the Desso GrassMaster, the pitch at the 55,000-capacity stadium will have good traction, modifiable levels of hardness and ball bounce on a surface that will stay consistently playable despite facing an already hectic year's schedule of around 90 events.

There has been much speculation over whether the state-of-the-art surface will be ready in time for the inaugural World Club 10s rugby tournament (June 21 and 22), which is slated to be the opening sports event at the stadium, the crown jewel of the $1.33 billion Singapore Sports Hub at Kallang.

TIGHT DEADLINE

The consortium is operating on a tight timeline, having to ensure the grass populates and turns what is now a somewhat barren surface into a lush carpet of green that can hold up to the harsh test of rugby.

After a tour and presentation to the media yesterday, Greg Gillin, the Sports Hub's senior director of stadia, said: "The playing surface will be ready for rugby, it will look very different in a couple of weeks.

"(The National Stadium) will be like the new Wembley, absolutely, we aim to make it the premier stadium in Asia."

Gillin then gave an insight into the $800,000 GrassMaster pitch, which features six artificial fibre strips that are stitched 18 centimetres into the ground at two-centimetre intervals across the surface.

The fibre strips act as anchors for the roots of the natural grass, providing maximum stability, even in harsh conditions.

"The main benefit of this surface is its safety element - there won't be slipping. It will be a surface that actually allows the players to play 100 per cent, and give the fans the best experience," said Gillin.

"We want to avoid mistakes that were made at other stadiums."

This GrassMaster was preferred over the traditional "lay and play" surface as well as an artificial surface like the one at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

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