Justin Lang and his team at Melbourne & Olympic Parks (AAMI Park) renovated the surface at AAMI Park in October 2020 using Soprano ryegrass from PGG Wrightson Turf. Justin has kept us updated with regular photos of its establishment since, and recently George Tothill met with Justin to view the field immediately after an A-league football game. The playing surface looks magnificent and the presentation is first class. Here we ask Justin how things are coming along post renovation.
Describe the renovation process, how you chose the window you had to do it and the process of the renovation?
AAMI Park has a large number of events each season including rugby, football and non-sporting events including monster trucks and concerts. To meet these demands we use a dual-product stabilising system which incorporates a strong healthy ryegrass sward. In October 2020 we conducted a major renovation to strip back both products to sand; removing all organic material and rejuvenating the artificial fibres. Unfortunately, COVID, like in most places, decimated the sports and entertainment industries in Melbourne. This gave us the perfect opportunity to carry out these works, starting in late September where we seeded with Soprano perennial ryegrass and top-dressed in early October, 9 days later. Our first hand-mow was in late October, 22 days after seeding.
Seeding Soprano perennial ryegrass in September.
What were the challenges and how did you overcome them?
When seeding into sand and fibres with no existing ryegrass it is crucial to get your rates and spacings correct. To help overcome this we went in 4 different directions, this helped to eliminate any over or underlapping seed lines. Once the organic material is removed, so is most of your nutrient holding capacity. To get the seed out of the ground and established relatively quickly you need good nutrient levels as sand is very hungry. To overcome this, we applied nutrients both pre and post-seeding.
Soprano was chosen, what was involved in your decision making, and at what sowing rate?
In modern stadia with microclimates, it is crucial all decisions are made with knowledge, experience, comparisons, trials, data, peer reviews and venue history. For these reasons, we thought that Soprano turf ryegrass ticked all the boxes. We went at the higher sowing rate of 500 kg/ha, knowing if it was too thick, we could thin it out at any time.
Soprano showing healthy establishment.
Now the field is established and fully functional, how happy are you? Also, how often will you over-sow and at what rates?
Although I would like to say the field is performing above expectations, for me it is performing exactly how I thought it would. The feedback and performance of the pitch has been very positive; the evenness, ball roll and stability has certainly been to standard and Soprano has played a major part in that. Over-sowing and rates will be determined on an as-needed basis, although over-seeding is generally done around the start and during our rugby seasons.
The pitch at AAMI prepared for an A-League football match.
What considerations are involved in selecting the right turf variety?
Choosing a turf variety for a major stadium is essential. Not only for the quality of the surface but to maintain AAMI Park’s status as a world-class sporting venue. The process is full of discussions, reviews, and consultations. The Soprano pitch has turned out magnificent, and we are truly confident we made the right decision.
Justin Lang of AAMI Stadium.
PGG Wrightson Turf are breeders and producers of perennial ryegrasses ideally suited to high performance sports turf. PGW Turf would like to congratulate Justin and the team at Melbourne & Olympic Parks for the outstanding presentation of the AAMI Park surface.
For further information on PGG Wrightson Turf products and distributors please go to pggwrightsonturf.com/australia