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A stitch in time at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff

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The major pitch revamp at the Millennium Stadium has taken an exciting turn as two giant sewing machines have started work on the new turf at the home of Welsh rugby.

The Desso GrassMaster machines have begun stitching artificial fibre into the fresh shoots of grass to complete the new hybrid surface which will be revealed before Wales’ first Dove Men Series clash on 8 November.

After a fortnight of ‘sowing’ grass seed at Cardiff’s iconic rugby venue, the ‘sewing’ of natural grass and its artificial counterpart is expected to be finished by the end of the week, one month before Wales take on Australia, Fiji, New Zealand and South Africa.

The specialist machines, encased within bespoke travelling tents, will stitch up to 21 million artificial turf fibres to the natural grass roots. The fibres equate to 86,400 kms of twine, more than twice the circumference of the earth!

Head Groundsman Lee Evans who posed for photos on a wooden bench on which “Millennium Cardiff” has now been handwritten by the Desso workers alongside other major venues, said:

This is a tried-and-tested system that features all over the sporting world. The Desso team are experts in this field and to see the Millennium Stadium up there with the some of the greatest venues is just fantastic for me and my team, for Welsh rugby and the Millennium Stadium.

The Millennium Stadium’s radical turf transformation will vastly improve the playing surface in line with the most advanced hybrid surfaces in the industry, one year before Rugby World Cup 2015 brings eight games to Cardiff.

The major renovation project also includes new state-of-the-art broadcast facilities as well as a Terraplas pitch covering to protect the surface during non-pitch events such as rock concerts and motorsports.

Millennium Stadium Manager Mark Williams is enthusiastic about the progress so far:

We are now right at the heart of the pitch installation project as the giant Desso Grassmaster machines set about stitching the grass and artificial fibres which will make up the brand-new pitch.

This stage marks a hugely significant moment at the Millennium Stadium which will ensure we continue to strengthen our reputation as one of the world’s leading multi-event venues for sport and entertainment for the future.

Since its official opening in 1999, the Millennium Stadium has delivered over 350 major events for Wales and, with that, continued to improve facilities for the 770,000 paying visitors it attracts, on average, per year.

Williams added:

We must continue to put the systems in place to ensure the very best environment for the national squad and the millions of spectators we welcome to Wales. This summer is no exception and we are excited and optimistic about our new pitch project, which is not only about providing a greater playing surface but also improved facilities for the media and a pitch covering system that will ensure we have the potential to deliver a wide range of events all year round.

Free sports turf advice at Saltex

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World-leading and award-winning groundsmen and women will offer free sports turf management advice to SALTEX (Sports Amenity & Landscape Trade Exhibition) visitors at Windsor Racecourse this year.

An extensive team of experts at the Institute of Groundsmanship’s (IOG) Ask the Expert advice centre – located at the heart of the SALTEX showground – will include Real Madrid’s Paul Burgess, Wimbledon’s Neil Stubley, Twickenham’s Keith Kent and Rod Heyhoe from Lightcliffe Cricket Club in West Yorkshire, as well as the highly-respected team of IOG Regional Advisors.

IOG CEO Geoff Webb said:

The IOG Ask the Expert advice centre is a collaboration between the IOG and leading sports turf professionals who will be on hand to offer sports turf management advice and guidance to visitors from a wide range of sports facilities – from volunteers at amateur sports clubs and local authority contractors to top-flight groundscare professionals.

Alongside these leading groundsmen we’ve also signed up past and present IOG award winners and our very own IOG regional advisors, who will be on hand to offer across-the-board groundscare advice throughout the three-day event.

Blue Ds for hockey trialled at Investec Hockey World League

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England Hockey made modifications to the competition pitch for the Investec Hockey World League semi-final at the University of Westminster. It used synthetic turf transferred from the 2012 Olympic pitch to pick out the Ds in contrast to the remainder of the green pitch.

Sally Munday, England Hockey’s CEO, said:

The principle of a different coloured scoring area has worked well in other sports and different coloured Ds have been used in indoor hockey for a number of years now. With renovation work required at the ground we embraced the opportunity to be involved in this initiative and we hope that spectators and TV viewers alike will welcome the new look.

Kelly Fairweather, CEO of the FIH, stated

FIH supports England Hockey in finding a solution to provide an appropriate pitch surface for this event and is keen to assess the feedback from players and spectators about the potential for this innovative pitch design.

The pitch at the University of Westminster Sports Ground in Chiswick was repaired and altered by FIH Preferred Pitch Supplier Sports Technology International.

Winchester University's hockey stadium has blue Ds imported from the 2012 Olympic surface.

Winchester University’s hockey stadium has blue Ds imported from the 2012 Olympic surface.

Fresh fields for US college stadiums

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A number of US college stadiums are preparing for the summer and autumn sports seasons with field  upgrades. College of the Canyons Cougar Stadium is laying a new synthetic field (FieldTurf Revolution Monofilament Turf) at a cost of $780,000.

The University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium is replacing its 2005 surface with an UBU Sports’ Speed Series S5-M synthetic turf system at a reported cost of $600,000.

The University of Southern Mississippi is spending $550,000 on a resurfacing project with Matrix Turf to be completed by 1 July after a tornado in March left the nine-year-old playing surface unusable. The field will have contrasting, light/dark green every five yards, and Golden Eagles in white text with a black border and gold background in the endzones. The Southern Miss logo on USM’s black helmets will placed at midfield.