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SAPCA Award Finalists in Focus: New 3G Pitch for Aberystwyth Town FC

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09 August 2017

The SAPCA Award for Excellence was launched in 2015 to celebrate exceptional achievements by SAPCA members.

The first SAPCA Award was presented during the SAPCA Conference in February 2016 – and earlier this year, SIS Pitches beat nine other finalists to win the second edition of the prize.

In the second of a series of articles – highlighting the ten projects which made it to the 2016 final list – we look at how a new 3G playing surface has rejuvenated the fortunes of Aberystwyth Town Football Club.

Tackling the Challenges

Aberystwyth Town Football Club (ATFC) became the latest Welsh Premier League (WPL) club to change its playing surface from natural turf to a 3G surface in 2016. Following in the footsteps of many of its WPL rivals, Aberystwyth wanted to increase the amount of use it gets from its main pitch – as well as limiting the number of games lost to bad weather.

Working closely with Jonathan Smith, a sports surface consultant at Glamorgan-based GEO Turf Consulting, ATFC was keen to find a solution which would provide the club with an elite-level pitch for year-round use. The club launched a competitive tender for the project and as a result appointed construction specialists McArdle Sport Tec to lead the development.

The project to install the artificial playing surface at the club's Park Avenue Stadium was made complex due to a number of factors. The existing ground was classified as contaminated – adding to the cost and difficulty of disposal – and the stadium was located in a busy town centre. The proximity of the sea to the stadium also meant there was a threat of tidal flooding over the pitch.

McArdle offered the club a new sports surface base system, supplied by artificial grass manufacturer, TigerTurf, called TenCate Ecocept. Ecocept is a seamlessly-paved, base layer made from recycled plastics and recycled rubber. The mixture is paved in-situ and provides numerous benefits for the construction and performance of an artificial grass pitch. Meeting both FIFA and World Rugby impact requirements, it was deemed perfect for the Welsh club.

"The use of Ecocept meant that there was no need for off-site removal of contaminated materials,” says Richard Thornton, contracts director at McArdle Sport Tec.

"This also meant that no imported stone had to be transported onto site – saving money and time and also reducing vehicle movements on and off site leading to a lower carbon footprint. This was beneficial as the town centre location can be difficult to navigate and can become easily congested.

"The proximity of the stadium to the sea – and a high water table from tidal water – had previously caused the pitch to flood. Therefore, a wastewater management programme had to be designed to ensure the pitch could be used year-round. A soakaway was constructed, but due to the tidal water table – a problem during spring high tides – we had to find an affordable, pumped solution.

"We explored new and innovative technologies to cater for very large flows, with a pump set to discharge a minimum of 42ltr/s. A series of drains were also introduced to link to the new soakaway. To tackle the worst possible storm event, the pump station was designed to discharge to the sea in the most extreme conditions".

End Product

In the end, more than 8,000sq m of TigerTurf Soccer Real 50 XQ artificial grass was laid on the innovative, bespoke base and drainage solution – and the work was completed in time for Aberystwyth Town's match against Bala Town on 11 October 2016.

The decision to make use of the new technologies in the construction allowed the club to complete the project on a limited budget. It has also increased playing hours available at the club and allowed it to open up the pitch to the wider community, including disability sports clubs, youth and academy teams – creating additional revenue streams.

The end to cancellation of fixtures has also seen an increased attendance at first team fixtures, bringing in further income to the club.

ATFC chair Tony Bates said that the pitch has already made a huge difference. "There is no question that the club and wider community will all benefit greatly from this much-needed facility.

"I'm genuinely excited at the prospect of welcoming as many participants as possible to take advantage of this unique, international-standard pitch and hope to see football in the area progress as a consequence".

ATFC's facility manager, Frank Rowe, added, "In an area with very high rainfall, the excellent drainage 3G provides allows the playing surface to remain consistent throughout the year.

"The pitch can now be played on virtually continuously, due to the fact that the surface does not cut up or become worn as with grass. We're keen to make the pitch benefit the wider community and aim to roll out facility and programme opportunities to as many participants as possible. All too often training and games in the locality are cancelled due to water-logged pitches or the lack of access to a quality surface".

For more information on GEO Turf Consulting Limited, please click [here]. For more information on McArdle Sport Tec, please click [here].  For more information on TigerTurf (UK) Ltd, please click [here].

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