- Oldest pitch in elite British sport to be replaced
- Headingley pitch dates back to 1890
Photo: RFU Archive
The oldest pitch in elite British sport is set to be replaced after it was announced that the rugby pitch at Headingley Carnegie Stadium is to be replaced.
The pitch, which dates back to the opening of the stadium in 1890, was last relaid in 1963 when Headingley became the first club ground in British sport to install undersoil heating. However, work will begin on October 8 to dig out the old pitch and drainage to be replaced by a modern surface and infrastructure. The project will cost around £1 million and is due for completion for the beginning of December.
The work will see a full reconstruction of the playing surface to a depth of 450mm this will include new drainage system, gravel drainage layer, undersoil heating pipes, lower root zone level, upper root zone level and finally 40mm reinforced fibre turf complimented with a state of the art irrigation system supplied by Toro.
The stadium's team will be working with Clive Richardson International Limited, who have recently carried out similar work at the Aviva Stadium and Croke Park in Dublin and are currently working with the Bundesliga to improve their club pitches in Germany and many leagues within Europe. They will be responsible for delivering the full project under the guidance of Chris Wilson from Caddicks, Head Groundsman Jason Booth and Tim Colclough from TGMS, who is the club's consultant for the pitch construction.
The work will see the old pitch removed from the stadium over a six-week period along with the old irrigation, drainage and undersoil heating system. County Turf, based in Scunthorpe, are supplying the new pitch, who have recently supplied the turf to the Olympic Stadium in London.
The pitch will have 3G Artificial surrounds with the pitch area set at 68m wide by 100m long and 6m in goals at either end. The old posts, which are currently concreted in place and were installed in the late 1970s when they were actually lifted into place by the squad of the time, will be removed and replaced by a modern set that can be removed easily for renovation work.
Commenting on the announcement Chief Executive Gary Hetherington said: "This decision has followed a period of nearly two years planning by our Head Groundsman Jason Booth. It is a considerable investment for the club but vital if we are to maintain our position within the sport and enable us to attract more events to the stadium."
The hard work starts now – Head Groundsman
Head Groundsman Jason Booth added: "I am delighted the Board of Directors have approved the reconstruction. A lot of research has gone into the process because we are at a stage now that we can no longer guarantee fixtures but this will do that and bring us in line with all modern stadia.
"The fact that we have been able to get so many games on in recent years is testament to the work that the groundstaff have done for over a decade to not only maintain and prepare the pitch for all year round rugby but also win awards along the way for it as well.
"The new construction will provide a consistent surface all year round and will mean an end to muddy pitches at Headingley Carnegie. We will lose some grass cover during winter months as that is inevitable but the surface will remain firm and true. We explored fully the option of all types of pitches, including a 3G artificial surface, however the overwhelming outcome from both experts and users was that a natural reinforced grass pitch was the right option for Headingley Carnegie Stadium.
"The hard work starts now to get the reconstruction completed in the timescale and once in place we will work with our sponsors, Everris, on an ongoing basis to maintain the highest possible standards for years to come."
The club's chaplain Rev Steve Mitchell will be arranging a service of remembrance on the pitch before the works begin to remember those who had their ashes scattered on the pitch over the years, more details of which the club will announce in due course.