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Donbass Arena, Ukraine: Home to FC Shakhtar Donetsk


The challenges

In the world’s most extreme weather conditions it was vital that the playing quality of the pitch was improved and maintained all year round to withstand a climate which includes frost, snow and heavy rainfall, with temperatures falling as low as -27°C in the winter and rising to +45°C in the summer.

To focus on pitch maintenance, usage and strategic management, as well as the development of performance criteria and monitoring of playing qualities within a heavily shaded environment.

The objectives

  • To match the high standards achieved in the stadium and by the team on the pitch; FC Shakhtar Donetsk is the leading premier football club in the Ukraine.
  • To continually measure and improve the playing performance of the pitch, increasing grass cover and providing a quality surface for year round playability.
  • To measure and quantify how light/shade was affecting the turf and minimise adverse effects on the turf within the stadium.
  • To test the physical and chemical properties of the rootzone materials; to better understand the current composition and characteristics of the turf and provide recommendations on how to improve these.
  • To ensure that we delivered Ukraine’s and Europe’s best pitch.

The solutions

A comprehensive feasibility study was completed at the stadium which included a Hemi-view (light & shade) analysis during the design phase of the stadium and a full review of the construction profile and turfing elements during the original installation. The stadium benefits from under soil heating, a ventilation/vacuum system and a fully automatic irrigation system with integral irrigation heads; it was important to understand how these affect the turf quality.

Before: Northern goal showing signs of wear

A liming programme was initiated immediately to raise the base line pH levels and provide a soil which would ensure all the required nutrients were readily available for the grass plant. The quantity required was large with two tonnes of lime being applied to the pitch in three separate treatments; gradually decreasing the level of acidity in the soil to the required levels. The first application made an almost instant impact with the grass turning greener; promoting sustained growth, with thicker leaf blades and a denser, more compact sward.

Modifications were also made to the fertiliser programme to promote sufficient growth to offset the wear and tear of play but avoid the soft, lush growth which had been identified as an issue previously.

After: Significant improvement in root development

The stadium creates a harsh growing environment, which provides ideal conditions for the encouragement of pest and disease activity. Positive identification of the pests and diseases was quickly made by Dr Ruth Mann, Head of Turfgrass Protection at STRI. A programme was developed to control the pests and diseases and this has been successfully implemented on the pitch, resulting in a further increase in the quality of the playing surface.

The project and maintenance programmes proved to be extremely effective due to the relationship and communication between the stadia’s management team and the STRI advisory staff, working well together to deliver the programme and meet all the objectives.

After: Vast improvement shown in turf

The results

  • An excellent quality playing surface; with a leading Premier League Manager commenting that ‘the pitch was as good as the Emirates Stadium’ at the Champions League fixture in November 2010.
  • Performance improvements seen across all playing qualities, including stability, firmness and traction.
  • Confirmed as host to Euro 2012 quarter-final and semi-final games.

Contact STRI:

St Ives Estate
West Yorkshire
BD16 1AU

Tel: +44 (0)1274 565131
Fax: +44 (0)1274 561891

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