The 1st day of exploring the UK was absolutely superb all around. Superb and eye opening observations. Superb and in-depth discussions. Superb weather and travel conditions. Many, many, many thanks to the man I consider the UK/ USA grass field ambassador…. Mr. Simon Gumbrill. Simon single-handedly is bring 2 very different worlds of groundsmanship together. As always, his hospitality, graciousness, and ideas are 1st rate. Thank you to him for taking the time to take me around the country!
One of the exploration and idea collection points of this trip focuses around stability and reinforcement of rootzones for heavy use. The UK climate brings large amounts of rain and cold winters, yet most high level stadiums/ field in the UK never fight divoting and sand stability issues like American fields. Why??
With that in mind, our 1st stop on Monday was Wembley Stadium. Wembley hosted the Pittsburgh Steelers & Minnesota Vikings Sunday night, just 12 hours prior to our visit. Many, many thanks to Mr. Anthony Stones and his staff for hosting us the morning after such an event. Absolutely 1st class to take the time to see us, talk with us, and to be so open with us.
And the Wembley pitch was fantastic as well. Reinforced w/ Desso, American football had barely nicked the field. But the NFL game is only part of the story. Wembley had perviously hosted Roger Waters “The Wall” concert 2 weeks prior on Sat. Sept. 14. (Yes, the same “The Wall” concert that toured the US last summer, decimating stadium fields across the country and leading to hundreds of thousands of square feet of sod replacement). Yet even with it 2 weeks before an NFL game, Wembley sodded 0 sq ft following the concert.
Even more remarkable is that the field had sustained multiple rugby and soccer matches prior to the NFL and concert following a seeding renovation to repair the field from a month of concerts in June. Absolutely amazing!! More to come on HOW this was possible in upcoming days…..
Our 2nd stop of Monday was at Arsenal’s Shenley Training Ground to see Mr. Steve Braddock. Mr. Braddock is truly an artist, as the pitches were as strong as ever. Thank you to Steve for taking the time to talk about so many topics and to trade so many different possibilities. With over 10 fields, the training ground is a large facility… but that doesn’t keep Steve and his strong staff from producing amazing results. More to come on observations… in particular from seeing 5 more Desso sewed fields.
Lastly on Monday, Mr. Paul Ashcroft allowed us to pay him a visit at Emirates Stadium late in the evening to see his masterpiece known as the Emirates Stadium pitch. With Napoli FC training for their Champions League match against Arsenal, their work during a fast paced training session on the Desso pitch highlighted some of the strong points Mr. Ashcroft was kind enough to share with us. Thank You to him for taking the time to see us, even being busy!
In observing 12 immaculate fields on my 1st day, even following American football/ nearly 2 months into season training/ immediately follow a hard working training session, I quickly was reminded again how different our thinking and quality is in the USA is compared to the top facilities in the UK. With all the fields being high traffic, 7 of the 12 fields reinforced with Desso, and none ever getting sod work….. the number of additional questions for me to get answered grows. Much, much more on the amazing things seen are to come!