R4m hockey pitch worth its weight in green

Hockey players are enjoying social games on the revamped hockey pitch at Rhodes University, after it underwent a R4m upgrade.

“The newly laid Astroturf at Rhodes is looking very good, after the long wait and hard work by MBB Consulting Engineers, and Cape Courts and Civils,” said Greg Wilmot, assistant sports officer at Rhodes Sports Administration.

However, Wilmot said it could still take a few months before the astro played at its best, as newly laid astros took a little time to settle. He said the "pile" of the turf was still spongy and needed to be "run in" before it reached its optimum speed.

While the Rhodes league matches only start in mid April, a number of social games, as well as the Summer League, are currently been played. MBB Consulting Engineers was commissioned by Rhodes to design and project-manage the upgrading of the existing hockey pitch and the building of a new practice area adjacent to the main field.

This R4 million contract was started in August last year and finished in December. Roger Adams, head of sport at Rhodes, said the facilities would be open for use by schools in the Grahamstown area, and hiring fees would contribute to the artificial turf replacement fund, which would finance the next upgrade in about 12 years.

“We also have a hockey outreach project, which gets children from local underprivileged primary schools involved in the game. This is part of our social responsibility programme,” said Adams. Further changes to the hockey pitch include a nylon net fence around the pitch, which returns to its original shape after impact.

This means it will be able to take repeated hits by hockey balls in its stride, remaining unbroken and therefore providing a safety net for players and spectators. This replaces the previous galvanised mesh wire and advertising boards.

Recesses for goal posts (designed for seven-a-side hockey) have also been incorporated into the design of the field. Kerbing was installed around the edge of the field to anchor the new synthetic turf “carpet”.

Lighting has been installed, so the facility can be used 24 hours a day. “Along with the building of the new dugout in 2009, the astro facility is superb,” added Wilmot.

The original hockey pitch was designed by MBB in 1995. However, after 15 years of hard play, wear, tear, victories and a few tears, the artificial turf needed replacing. It was lifted and the original platform was resealed with bitumen to keep it water-tight.

According to Luke Mafuma, MBB’s project engineer, the original shock pad was in good condition and was replaced after the platform was resealed. “A shock pad is a layer of sponge-like material that absorbs dynamic forces and protects players from injury," Mafuma said.

Wilmot said the one down-side to all the construction had been the effect on sections of the athletics track. These were now being repaired. It will be several more weeks until the grass has grown sufficiently to permit runners to use the whole track. Until then, a 200-metre stretch of track on the Eastern side is still open.

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ASTRONOMICAL... Members of the Rhodes Hockey Club practise on the newly relaid Rhodes University hockey astroturf. Photo: Desiree Schirlinger
ASTRONOMICAL... Members of the Rhodes Hockey Club practise on the newly relaid Rhodes University hockey astroturf. Photo: Desiree Schirlinger