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Weathering the storm

Sean Colbert, sales manager at Garside Sands, examines how the latest innovations in infill sands can help synthetic sport pitches stay high and dry whatever the weather.

The Great British weather is increasingly having a devastating impact on the nation’s favourite sports - with flooding disrupting international cricket tournaments, football pitches left too waterlogged to play, and golfing greens facing widespread disease.

Contractors are under greater pressure to future-proof sports pitches and ensure playability all year round, which has spurred a new generation of sports construction materials offering enhanced drainage characteristics.

Britain is getting wet, wet, wetter

Research from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs shows that between 1998 and 2013, total annual rainfall for the UK surpassed 1,200mm six times. The same only happened once in the 18 years leading up to that period.

This trend shows no sign of changing and nor is it restricted to the winter months. In the summer of 2017 we had 32.8 per cent more rainfall than the average summer figure, making it the 11th wettest summer on record for the UK and the fifth wettest on record in Scotland, according to the Met Office.

The Lake District, Western Scotland and North Wales are amongst the areas that experience the highest rainfall in the UK, due to their location and topography, with warm moist westerly winds driving rainfall from Atlantic weather systems.

One recent study suggests certain areas of the UK experience rainfall at 300 per cent of the national average, yet pitch design and infill materials do not reflect these variations.


Product innovation

All of this wet weather is having a detrimental impact on the performance qualities of synthetic sports surfaces. Even surfaces installed just five years ago have been rendered outdated and sometimes unplayable due to changing environmental trends, made worse by poor maintenance. 

For club operators, it has never been more important to specify the right sports construction materials and undertake the correct maintenance procedures in order to protect their investment.

Manufacturers have responded with continued innovation of sports construction materials including future-proof drainage solutions to ensure longevity and maximum return on investment.

Silica infill sands

One area of innovation has been silica infill sands, which serve a number of purposes including weighing down the surface, preventing rippling, increasing fire resistance, protecting the backing and, of course, drainage, by acting as a filter to regulate the flow of water through to the subgrade. 

ProPitch Elite, for example, is a new generation of infill sand from Aggregate Industries’ Garside Sands and Levenseat division which offers drainage performance, specifically designed for sports pitches at risk of flooding.

The inclusion of larger rounded particles provides superior void space for enhanced drainage. Traditionally, silica infills like the company’s 2EW sand offer a nominal effective particle size of between 0.25mm and 0.39mm. Whilst this is suitable in most areas, ProPitch Elite signals a new approach for areas of extreme rainfall with nominal effective particle size of between 04mm to 0.8mm. Its also proven to drain 25 per cent faster than 2EW and 116 per cent better than the most popular competitor sands.

Innovative product development like this helps operators to overcome the challenge of increasingly wet weather and withstand the new norm of average rainfall, protecting their investment and maintaining all-important revenue from sports pitches.

Court refurbishment ensures sustainability of Burnley tennis club

Burnley Tennis Club is due to complete its court refurbishment programme to improve facilities, increase memberships and offer a much greater consistency of play. The volunteer-run club was granted a 10-year loan from the LTA and Tennis Lancashire to fund the £80,000 refurbishment.

Five of the site’s six courts have already been rejuvenated with TigerTurf’s Advantage Pro, which doesn’t shine when wet or under floodlights and retains its shape and structure after heavy use.

“The old artificial surface we had in place was close to becoming unplayable and we’d reached the point where certain courts were being avoided, which increased the wear on others” says Elaine Barker, chairman of Burnley Tennis Club.

Since the new courts opened, the club has seen more consistent usage across its six courts, with collective usage increasing by 30 per cent. It has exceeded its member retention target and has gained 30 new members boosting its sustainability.

More significantly, the new courts have allowed the club to increase the number of county-based tournaments it can host, which will increase revenue and ultimately help to populate its sinking fund and repay its loan.

Bright new activity space for primary school

Synthetic Turf Management has created a green EPIC (Education and Play in Colour) artificial grass surface with a rust running track and blue surround for Cleveland Road Primary School in Ilford, East London.

The project, which also includes a hopscotch and target, follows the previous development of a 460sq m multi use games area (MUGA) at the school.  The MUGA was installed as an overlay on the school’s existing tarmac surface, which was replaced with 20mm of limestone, a 5mm rubber sports pad and green artificial turf with yellow line markings for both netball and football.

The new artificial grass surface and running track will allow pupils to practice a variety of sports within the school’s limited grounds. The EPIC surface has also created a safer learning environment for pupils to enjoy throughout the academic year, while brightening up the school grounds.

The new surface is being used during break and lunch times, as well as during PE lessons and after school clubs. 

The diamond yarn profile means the artificial grass is secured firmly into special backing making it a strong and durable grass type. This 22mm pile height product is available in a variety of colours and comes with an 8-year product warranty. This is coupled with a prefabricated 5mm rubber shock padding which is made up of recycled rubber granulite in sheet to cushion the surface over hard grounds. The pad is perforated and therefore drains well.

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