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Works get underway to replace entire MCG turf surface

Work commenced earlier this week on a major turf replacement program, which will see the entire Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) arena surface – almost 20,000sqm – replaced in preparation for a bumper year of sport.

The AUD$1.7m turf resurfacing program is the most extensive ever conducted by the Melbourne Cricket Club (MCC) since it reconstructed the field and converted the stadium to host the 2006 Commonwealth Games.

The entire turf surface will be stripped and re-levelled, amounting to approximately 3000 cubic metres of material or around 150 truck and trailer loads. This material will be recycled as a top soil product, rather than ending up in landfill.

At the same time, 10 portable pitches will be installed in the centre before new turf is laid in time for the MCG’s Sheffield Shield cricket season opener on October 31. The MCG will then host Twenty20 (November 7) and 50-over (November 21) internationals between Australia and South Africa.

The MCC has spent several years consulting with other venues around the world to develop a surface renewal strategy that ensures the quality of the turf is world-class and can accommodate the variety and volume of events played at the MCG.

Tony Gordon, MCC Arenas Operations Manager, said:

Since the ground was redeveloped for the Commonwealth Games in 2006, turf replacements have been conducted when required to prolong the life of the turf surface. This may be due to damage to the turf caused by wear and tear or wet weather. However, the life span of any natural turf sports surface is not infinite and, while our artificial lighting system has significantly reduced the need for turf replacement, the MCG is a high-use venue. Strategic turf replacement is crucial to ensuring our playing surface is among the best in the world. Both cricket and AFL players will enjoy the benefits of this program.

October provides a rare window for the MCC to complete the major program of works without compromising the AFL or cricket fixtures. The task will be made more complex by the installation of 10 portable pitches into the centre of the ground while the turf replacement is underway.

The turf works will impact participants in the Melbourne Marathon, to be held on October 12. Runners will be unable to finish with a customary lap on the MCG, as there will be no access to the playing surface.

Turf replacement process
Turf replacement at the MCG is quite complex, particularly given the short timeframe available. The first stage includes removal of existing turf and thatch accumulation, while ensuring the subsurface draining and irrigation systems remain intact. This material is quickly removed with excavating equipment and machinery. The next stage sees the remaining sand returned to the required levels and the new turf is laid once the leveling works are complete. Once installed, the turf system is ready to accommodate play.

Arena transformation – 2006 Commonwealth Games
In 2006, the MCG was the main stadium for the Commonwealth Games, holding the Opening Ceremony, 10 track and field sessions and the Closing Ceremony. As a result, both the field and the stadium had to undergo a major transformation to host the Games from March 15-26. Following the 2005 AFL season, the athletics track was laid in October and covered for the Boxing Day Test in December of that year. The turf was then removed to reveal the international-standard, eight-lane synthetic track on the MCG arena surface, together with all jump and field event areas in time for the Games. Following the Games, the stadium needed to be quickly converted back to AFL.

Portable pitch technology
After spending the past six months in Yarra Park, while the MCG hosts more than 50 AFL matches, the pitches – each weighing approximately 34 tonnes – were brought into the MCG by machine and installed over three nights on September 29, 30 and October 1. The primary aim of the portable pitch technology is to provide better pitches for cricket, as well as eliminating both the muddy centre and rock hard square for AFL. It also gives the arena more flexibility to host events during the year, such as the State of Origin rugby league match to be hosted on June 17 next year.

Only last month, the Victorian Government announced it would investigate opportunities to connect the MCG to Melbourne Park, further enhancing Melbourne’s sport and entertainment precinct.

Deputy Premier Peter Ryan and Minister for Sport and Recreation Damian Drum joined Melbourne Cricket Club (MCC) President, Paul Sheahan, and CEO, Stephen Gough, to discuss a study which would assess the feasibility of building a deck over Brunton Avenue and the rail lines adjacent to the MCG and Melbourne Park.

Mr Ryan said:

It is vital that any proposed development be thoroughly investigated so we can maximise opportunities for further national and international events in what is already the world’s best sport and entertainment precinct.

Contemporary stadium developments around the world are making better use of existing spaces to meet increasing needs to enhance the spectator experience.

Singapore Sports Hub (which played host to last week’s inaugural Stadia & Arena Asia Pacific event), Hong Kong Sports Hub (currently under consideration), Staples Centre in Los Angeles, and the London Olympics Precinct are all examples of how spaces can be used for live sites, corporate and sponsor facilities, bars and dining, and digital broadcast infrastructure.

The MCG Trust and MCC will manage the feasibility study under the guidance of a joint steering committee including the Government and Melbourne and Olympic Parks Trust.

Mr Gough added:

We welcome the opportunity to investigate the feasibility of utilising the space above the existing railyards. There are many possibilities and we are excited by the prospect of further enhancing the sporting precinct around the MCG.

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