February 28, 2003

Eden Park - Grand Old Lady of NZ sport gets makeover

Ground staff lay down new turf at Eden Park
The sports ground that saw Walter Hammond score a world-record 336 not out for England against New Zealand, which was the ground on which Shane Warne took his Australian record 356th Test victim, which saw New Zealand's first Test victory in 1956 and which saw some of the most remarkable one-day cricket during the 1992 World Cup, is no more.

Eden Park's turf has gone forever, along with its worn-out pitch, several generations of drainage pipes and vast amounts of sand and dirt, following 21 days of excavation work once the sixth New Zealand-India One-Day International was played last month.

The ground, also something of a temple of rugby and on which on one famous occasion in 1975, a rugby international was played between the All Blacks and Scotland with 80% of the ground resembling a lake, has had world-class stabilised natural turf rolled out today as part of the reconstruction job on the main oval.

The roll-out, as part of the whole project which is worth $4million, is expected to take six days.

The chief executive of the Eden Park Trust Board which administers the ground, John Alexander said: "Eden Park is an icon in world sports, yet we began last season with a playing surface that was well and truly past its use-by date.

"But come March 28 when the Blues take on the Brumbies, [in Super 12 rugby] Eden Park will have a natural turf playing surface that's as good as anything in the world of sports. This stabilised turf, subsurface and high-tech irrigation system can take whatever Auckland's weather and various sporting codes throw at it. Players and fans will love it."

The roll-out turf, is known as Motz Stabilised Turf and was grown on a farm south of Auckland. Recently it was cut into 1m x 30m strips, weighing one ton, in readiness for its transfer to Eden Park.

Before its use in the Super 12 match, the ground will be fertilised, watered and mown.

Other grounds to have used the same turf system include the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the 'Gabba in Brisbane, Canberra's Bruce Stadium and the Sydney Olympic Stadium.

The concept had its origins in the United States were multi-purpose stadia hosted a variety of events.

The managing director of H G Turf Pty Ltd, of Australia, Hamish Sutherland said: "The turf features a two-inch thick layer of natural grass that comprises a matrix of synthetic tufts, sand and a strong plastic backing.

"It is incredibly tough and resilient and can easily be rolled up and reconfigured to meet the requirements of different codes. The turf can be rotated throughout Eden Park's No 1 field to ensure it gets adequate sun, or it can be removed to the practice field or a turf farm for 'rest and rejuvenation'. The turf system is tough, flexible and really well suited for Eden Park."

The chairman of the board of control for Eden Park, Malcolm Dick said: "This was a critical step forward for Eden Park and means we're ready for another century of sporting excellence.

"Whether we're hosting the All Blacks, Super 12, NPC, one-day cricket or Test cricket, this natural playing surface will be superb. It's proven itself overseas, and it's well suited for Eden Park.

"The new natural turf system will allow Eden Park to host more rugby and cricket matches, both professional and amateur. Eden Park also hopes to bring back school sports, giving tomorrow's stars a taste of future glory. School matches were halted several years ago to reduce wear and tear on the deteriorating No 1 field."