Auckland’s Hybrid Revelation

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HG Sports Turf may be best known for their repertoire of elite stadia pitch constructions and turf supply across Australia, NZ and Asia but when it comes to “hybrid grass” solutions they have become the go to people.

In between a hectic schedule of stadium contracts that has seen HG Sports Turf complete Westpac Stadium in Wellington, NZ, AAMI Park Stadium in Melbourne and the new Perth Stadium in Western Australia, the HG team also completed two hybrid pitches at Nixon Park and Gribblehirst Park for Auckland Council.

A first in Australasia at community level, Auckland Council have embraced the technology to help fill a gap in their sports field portfolio. Auckland is a city with a population of 1.5m people and accounts for a third of the New Zealand population. It is rapidly expanding and is expected to grow by more than 1 million people in the next 20 years.

To be able to cater for this growth and development Auckland has a 30 year master plan that balances social, economic, environmental and cultural goals. Within this master plan is a sub plan for Sports Field Capacity Development. Following an extensive supply and demand study, Auckland Council realised that within 10 years they would have a 3,000 hour per week shortfall in the provision of sports fields for sporting activity.

Auckland Council has recognised that investment is required to bridge the  gap in this provision. The Sports Field Capacity Development Programme will see upgrades or reconstruction of 106 sand sports pitches, 115 training lights and 21 synthetic or hybrid grass fields over the life of the programme.

Nixon Park and Gribblehirst Park were the first lucky recipients to benefit from this programme, with HG Sports Turf installing the Xtragrass Hybrid system on both grounds earlier this year. Both sites are centrally located in character suburbs with very high participation rates.

Gribblehirst Park is a single field sports park and is the home to Eden Rugby Club. It is a dedicated rugby venue servicing the Eden Rugby Club 500+ members. The upgrades to the pitch saw the addition of new drainage, irrigation, sand carpet and lights before the Xtragrass Hybrid System was rolled out on top, infilled with sand and the natural grass established and grown in.

Nixon Park is a multiuse sports field with a primary focus on rugby and lacrosse. The ground is extensively used and is the home to Auckland Rugby. Like Gribblehirst Park the upgrades have seen the addition of new drainage, irrigation, sand carpet and lights again with the Xtragrass Hybrid System laid on top.

Erik Kinlon, General Manager -Business Development of HG Sports Turf commented “the upgrades to hybrid technology will see an uplift in capacity of usage from the previous natural turf fields by approx. 70%.  This increased usage, and fields that maintain consistency, safety and are perfectly playable all year round, is a win-win for the community and the local authority. The fact that neither sports field has suffered any lost games or training sessions due to pitch or weather conditions this year, in what has been one of the wettest winters on record for Auckland, is a testament to the success of the Xtragrass product.

Xtragrass is a natural grass surface reinforced with artificial fibres to provide a winning formula of natural grass playability and a surface that is durable and far more resistant to wear. Developed and refined over the last 12 years, Xtragrass is a unique and patented turf reinforcement hybrid system which provides the flexibility to adapt to the unique differences that exist at every location. Hybrid grass is the perfect solution for clubs, councils and local authorities that find it difficult to maintain natural turf playing surfaces all year round where high capacity of usage and weather can have a major impact.

Mark Bowater, Head of Parks Services – Parks, Sport & Recreation commented “The installation of hybrid pitches at Nixon Park and Gribblehirst Park in central Auckland has been part of a wider Sports Field Capacity Development Programme run by Auckland Council. The aim of the programme is to increase the playing capacity of the sports field network to enable higher levels of participation and active recreation in response to the needs of a rapidly growing city and region.  Both Nixon Park and Gribblehirst Park are single-field central city sports parks, in areas of high sports field demand and constrained supply.

Hybrid pitch technology was chosen as the preferred method of increasing field playing capacity for a number of reasons:
● As smaller single-field sports parks in older heritage neighbourhoods, synthetic pitches would have had an adverse impact on the character of the park landscapes and their range of active and passive recreational uses.
The hybrid pitch came at half the cost for two thirds the playing capacity increase of a full synthetic pitch.
The hybrid pitch looks like natural grass, and does not require a perimeter fencing.

“Both hybrid pitches were opened for use early in 2017, and have been  primarily used during the winter season for rugby union. Both pitches have performed very well in terms of drainage, firmness, stability, availability and wear tolerance. Feedback from the resident rugby club and user groups has been positive and encouraging, and there has been a high level of support and interest from the Local Board.”

For more information about hybrid grass solutions please contact Erik Kinlon, General Manager Business Development at HG Sports Turf ekinlon@hgsportsturf.com.au or visit www.Xtragrass.com

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