This summer has been frantic with so many venues visited in most of the countries of Europe, some of them pushing forward with raising their standards to ensure the surfaces can take the play of the new season.
I recently had the pleasure of taking Jim Stamps Sr. and Jim Stamps Jr., of JSM Services in Florida, on a tour of some U.K. facilities.
JSM Services, Inc. is an athletic field contracting company that wanted to see how we utilize equipment in Europe. I collected them in London and we went to Wimbledon (AELTC) to view the courts and receive a detailed explanation of the maintenance and tournament preparation. At Wimbledon they were cleaning the organic material and grass plants from the courts, so the two got to see first-hand the effort and techniques used by the grounds staff at Wimbledon.
Next stop to see Steve Braddock at Arsenals training ground, and as always it was looking fantastic. On to St. George’s Park, the home of the English FA, where Grounds Manager Alan Ferguson gave us an evening tour of the park and fields, and then he very kindly left us in the bar to entertain ourselves. We managed OK!
The next day we visited our offices and distribution in Marton, Cheshire, to view the range of maintenance equipment and to hear about how and who we work with throughout the world.
We then moved on to see Joe Pemberton at Manchester United’s training ground. Joe has had a huge amount of work done this summer with new construction of Fibresand fields, and under-soil heating to enable the intense play at Carrington to have less vulnerability to the elements each winter.
An unusual thing has happened this summer in the U.K.: the sun has come out and it is warm, so we have had temperatures here close to 100 degrees – very hot for us.
Joe has a very high-tech irrigation system covering the 16 fields, but it had broken down as the well had collapsed and was drawing sand into the pumps, so he had no water and the pitches/fields were growing in from seed. The situation was critical, but Joe seemed laid back about it. I have since seen the fields and all is under control again.
The next stop was Manchester United Old Trafford Stadium to see Tony Sinclair. The new field was installed and the seed was growing in. A hybrid turf system was nearly all stitched in, and it looked and felt fantastic, so I am sure it will be one of the best surfaces in the English Premier League this season.
We continued the tour with Zack Avers, an intern from Ohio State University (OSU) who is working at Arsenal Football Club for three months.
We visited Tony Stones at Wembley Stadium, whose field was growing in from seed after recent concerts held at the venue. He only had a three-week break before his next game, but the grass cover was growing in quickly.
We then returned to Wimbledon where Zack got the opportunity to work on Centre Court, so a fantastic opportunity for him and the OSU link.
Dave Roberts gave us the tour of the exclusive grounds at The Charterhouse School, dating back 400 years. It has fine examples of Victorian architecture and the setting and facilities are stunning.
Zack got to see some of the most famous sporting venues in the world in the short four-day tour, and he involved himself with the people responsible for the maintenance. Zack was a credit to OSU, and he will go far in the sports turf industry.
I made the English national press on the same day, as I was photographed cleaning a dirt line with a shovel on Centre Court just 10 days after Andy Murray had won the men’s title. I always hoped to play at Wimbledon one day, but I never imagined I would be carrying a shovel!
The UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) Women’s European Championship had just taken place in Sweden, and it was played very successfully on natural grass.
Simon Gumbrill is sales director at Campey Turf Care Systems, U.K.