Hub pitch ready for the best

The off-site nursery that houses and maintains the National Stadium football pitch is located in Kranji. The Sports Hub field's next high-profile test is the Barclays Asia Trophy next week.
The off-site nursery that houses and maintains the National Stadium football pitch is located in Kranji. The Sports Hub field's next high-profile test is the Barclays Asia Trophy next week.PHOTO: DANIEL NEO FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Natural grass grown in nursery at Kranji Sanctuary Golf Course but no major touch-ups needed after SEA Games

In a quiet corner of Singapore lies a plot of land central to the Sports Hub's attempts to consign its pitch woes to the past.

After months of secrecy, The Straits Times can reveal that the Kranji Sanctuary Golf Course is the site of rejuvenation and repairs for the new field at the National Stadium in Kallang.

Used for the first time at last month's SEA Games, the Eclipse Stabilised Turf (EST), commonly known as a "lay and play" surface, combines natural and artificial grass in a roll of turf.

The course houses a 3.2ha nursery - run by home-grown company TEHC International - where the natural field was grown and then transported in nearly 800 rolls to the stadium in a two-day process.

Surrounded by fish farms and nurseries, the area is adjacent to the course's fairways and is patrolled by two security guards.

An 8,000 sq m "reserve" field is maintained nearby, ready to replace damaged or degraded portions of the main pitch.

However, no major touch-ups have been required after the stadium hosted the Games' football and track and field events.

Jose Raymond, who is the Sports Hub's senior director for corporate communications and stakeholder management, said: "We have received very positive feedback from the athletes and coaches who used the National Stadium pitch for the football tournament.

"We are monitoring the recovery of the pitch very closely, and work to restore the pitch has been ongoing around the clock."

The stadium's dome roof has been opened for the first time since the Brazil-Japan football friendly last October to expose the turf to natural elements.

A rigorous top dressing, fertiliser and irrigation programme has also been implemented.

The EST system is understood to cost slightly less than the original $800,000 Desso GrassMaster field, whose patchy surface and sandy conditions came under fire last year from the likes of Brazil football coach Dunga and the New Zealand Rugby Union.

The new pitch showed its resilience to significant wear-and-tear when sections of the crowd entered the field for a dance party after the Games' closing ceremony.

The EST is also used at top regional venues such as Eden Park in Auckland and Canberra Stadium.

Melbourne-based HG Sports Turf provides the system as part of a three-year deal with the Sports Hub. The company also shares its expertise with TEHC.

"HG Sports Turf are experts in this area so their knowledge transfer will help us build our capabilities in Singapore," said Dick Toh, managing director of TEHC, which also supplies turf to the likes of Sentosa Golf Club and the Singapore Island Country Club.

The next high-profile test for the stadium field will be the Barclays Asia Trophy on July 15 and 18, featuring English Premier League sides Arsenal, Everton and Stoke City, as well as a Singapore Selection.

An EPL spokesman expressed confidence that the pitch will be "fit for top-quality football".

He said: "We've been impressed by the professionalism of the Sports Hub and their partners in preparing the surface for the Barclays Asia Trophy 2015."

Japan Football Association officials also gave the thumbs-up after a pitch inspection last Tuesday. The Samurai Blue play here on Nov 12 in a crucial World Cup qualifier.

JFA national team administrator Naoki Tsumura said: "The system was also used at some venues at the Asian Cup (in Australia in January) so it is tried and tested.

"Singapore now has a good surface that is ready for the best international teams."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 07, 2015, with the headline 'HUB PITCH READY FOR THE BEST'. Print Edition | Subscribe