August 18, 2000

New turf system in Auckland within 18 months

Melbourne's Colonial Stadium has set the trend for pitch developments at Eden Park.

Auckland Cricket's chief executive Lindsay Crocker was in Melbourne this week to see the Colonial Stadium set-up for himself and is convinced there are lessons for Eden Park in the pitch and ground technology.

"We need this sort of thing. We want to be able to change from cricket to rugby to cricket again within days in February-March.

"We have to do that to get maximum use out of what is a small cricket ground. But the beauty of it is that having portable pitches we will be able to site the pitch right in the middle of the ground," he said.

The portable pitch, and the field systems, offered new hope for multi-purpose grounds and a better return for the development dollar.

"They have played 45 AFL [Australian Football League] games in the last four months at the Stadium. They played a final on Friday night, and then put in the portable pitch on Saturday and despite all the football on the outfield they were still able to get the ground up to scratch for a cricket match five days later.

"The technology to do that isn't available in New Zealand at the moment, it is new-age stuff," Crocker said.

The notion of ploughing the field, sowing the seed and waiting a couple of months for the grass to grow was gone.

"They are growing grass in the shade, which has always been a problem here, they have top quality drainage systems and have overcome all the problems we have had here."

Auckland Cricket, Auckland Rugby and the Eden Park Trust Board have to discuss how they are going to develop the ground technology, but Crocker expects a decision to be made by the end of the year.

"The implementation depends on the type of system chosen but I would expect a new system and all the bells and whistles to be going in 18 months," he said.

Crocker made the point that the Colonial Stadium, at a cost of $450 million and the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff at $650 million could not afford to have events curtailed by poor turf management.

"In Cardiff they are able to lay new grass and play football on it within a couple of days.

"Somewhere between what they are doing in Sydney and in Cardiff, there is an affordable scheme that we can have in Auckland," he said.