• Sun
  • Dec 21, 2014
  • Updated: 7:33am
NewsHong Kong

Fake grass for Hong Kong Stadium is a bad idea, expert says

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 29 July, 2013, 8:09am

Grass in the Hong Kong Stadium should not be replaced with artificial turf, a local turf expert has said amid complaints of the poor quality of grass plaguing the city's top sporting venue.

"Players will get more seriously hurt on synthetic grass. It's also environmentally unfriendly," said Dr Eric Lee Yin-tse, turf expert and honorary senior research fellow at the Chinese University's School of Life Sciences.

Lee, who has designed sports pitches and racecourses for Hong Kong and Singapore, said studies showed that the temperature of plastic grass was at least 10 degrees Celsius higher than the air temperature.

The artificial turf, which usually lasts for about five years, required prolonged irrigation to cool it, and the rubber layer of the synthetic grass also contained heavy metals, he said.

Lee's comments came as internet users called for the pitch in Hong Kong Stadium to be replaced with artificial turf after the poor-quality appearance of the stadium's natural grass was broadcast internationally during Saturday's soccer match.

The online call coincided with the government's plan to replace natural grass on the city's pitches with synthetic grass. It would help cut maintenance costs and accommodate the growing demand for training grounds, the government said.

But Lee said: "This should not be the solution. Natural grass pitches can be easily maintained and open longer for use if the government improves its skills and management methods."

The pitch at the 40,000-seat Hong Kong Stadium in So Kon Po has been at the centre of controversy since it was redeveloped in 1994 for a hefty HK$850 million. The turf caused injuries to players and became loose under the stress of soccer and rugby games.

The issue led to the early termination of the operator Wembley International (HK)'s 10-year contract in 1998. The contract was to have ended in 2004.

After the contract was terminated, the turf was replaced, but the problem did not go away. It has been said that the arena had design and construction defects in the first place.

It is uncertain whether the same problem will arise at the new sports complex to be built in Kai Tak by 2019. The complex will have a 50,000-seat stadium with a retractable roof.


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The 'local expert' should do some research
Premier soccer team stadia synthetic playing surface examples
Century Link field stadium MLS Seattle Sounders capacity 67,000 www.soundersfc.com/team/facilities.aspx
Gillette Stadium MLS New England Revolution capacity 69,000 www.revolutionsoccer.net/stadium/gillette-stadium-overview
Jeld-Wen field MLS Portland Timbers capacity 19,000 - Field to host to 2014 MLS All-Star game jeld-wenfield.com/
Luzhniki Olympic stadium Moscow Capacity 100,000 FC Spartak PFC CSKA www.luzhniki.ru/content/map/big-arena/
Estadio Ricardo Saprissa Costa Rica capacity 23,000 Deportivo Saprissa www.saprissa.cr/
Estadi Olímpic de Terrassa capacity of 11,500 - Terrassa FC, also in Spain Santa Coloma de Gramanet, Hospitalet
SC CAMBUUR Dutch 1st Div
Tulpa stadium Kazan Russia www.kazan2013.ru/en
Tasma stadium Kazan Russia (both hosted the World University Championships July 2013) www.kazan2013.ru/en
Gallagher Stadium Maidstone United UK
75% of UK Premier soccer teams practice on 3G pitches as do FC Barcelona, AC Milan, Atletico Madrid, Man U, Man City, Liverpool etc before we even get to major NFL stadium pitches like MetLife Giants & Jets
As for 'local expert' comment 'heavy metals in crumb rubber'
Journalists should do some research too
It is ‘experts’ like these who caused the problem. HKJC’s Halliday refused to listen to Wembley grass experts from the outset & insisted on the Netlon pitch.
Para 92. 23 May 1994 from Wembley to J Halliday problems encountered after Chelsea v Hong Kong soccer match,(the pitch had had ten days without use). The pitch had cut-up badly, even after the pre-main event ladies' soccer game. observed that there was little or no root growth/ top growth was less than predicted, & the pitch was draining very quickly, did not retain water. Oram described the problems for the players, who could not accelerate, turn or sidestep without the danger of losing their footing, further, the level of the pitch was not satisfactory for top-class sport. Concluded "the PITCH WILL NOT RESIST LATERAL FORCES without opening the surface, which then becomes unstable, & cannot be repaired easily, requested an early meeting with Halliday to agree a remedial course of action."
SO what has changed ?
See this site:
Heat on natural vs artificial turf Milone & MacBroom.
Conclusion: turf surface be hotter to touch, actually little to no difference at 2 feet and 5 feet above a turf surface.
Watch this:
Yes, you are right - journalists should do some research, too. I raised this issue on some related stories for this tournament as well.
This field problem is actually not a small issue as Hong Kong and other Asian venues are wooing professional sports clubs from Europe and North America to stage matches in Asia, and as interest from these European and North American clubs to do so is keen as well. A city as developed as Hong Kong - one of the richest societies not only in Asia but the world per capita - has to address why with a first-class economy it is trying to put on first-class sporting events in stadiums that appear to be anything but first-class in the view of the players and clubs. With injuries taking place, clubs may begin to reconsider traveling to Asia in their pre-season as they watch city officials look more at the revenues being taken in and less on the expenses that need to be met to stage successful tournaments.
That said, I hope Hong Kong officials get this worked out.
they obviously used cheapo sea sand for top dressing for some considerable time - another SCMP article refers to 'shells & pebbles' in the surface. They need to use graded silica sand instead of sea sand. Sea sand contains 'shells & pebbles" (great for your skin in a sliding or rugby tackle!) but sadly, it contains fine SILT. This is what happened here I guess; they have sealed the surface with silt that blocks the voids between sand particles needed for drainage & also restricts healthy sward growth. Since the grass sod is not dense nor held together by rhizomes the surface moves when there is any lateral push/slide movement thus cutting up with resultant ACL & like lower leg injury. Sand based systems do not retain nutrients so fertilizers wash thru quickly hence the sward needs considerable more time to develop.
They now have a major problem as the top dressed silt will have probably found its way to the geotextile above the gravel drainage layer as well as backing up in the sand layer voids. All in all a Foxtrot Uniform by laying a racetrack profile in the first place then cheapskating on top dressing materials.
Moreover HKG's air quality is atrocious & the sticky acid rain suspended pollutants in the air will wash into the stadium surface & will stick particles together especially in bare areas where algae/ moss will form.
Thanks, Dynamco for the research on this issue. This is the kind of discussion and details that SCMP should be leading rather than simply writing that pitch was unplayable in most of its leading stories on the matches and putting more in-depth explanations in separate stories. These problems could lead to Hong Kong as well as other Asian venues getting bumped for good by European or other international tournament organizers. As we can see from some of the information provided here, it is not simply a question of weather conditions, but is likely due to management and decision-making.


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