The post construction period of an artificial pitch is generally a time when all club members can get stuck into enjoying a brand-new playing surface. Everybody wants to get to enjoy the new surface and rates of participation can reach a feverishly high point... things have never been better.
As time goes by and the pitch ages, performance can decrease which is inevitable. It happens in all walks of life, from buying a mobile phone, a nicely tailored coat or any other type of consumable item come to think of it. All things are susceptible to wear, and everything requires a level of aftercare and maintenance.
However, not all items in our life come with such a whopping price tag and didn't need a 1,000 supermarket shopping bags to be packed, raffling numerous turkeys at Christmas or hold countless bake sales or coffee mornings. The unfortunate truth is that the post construction period is often where a lot of clubs fall down and as the title of this piece suggests, can sometimes be the unfortunate legacy of a playing facility. People don't remember day one of a pitch opening, but they are definitely thankful the day a pitch is replaced.
Maintenance is a strange thing, the issue lies not in one singular aspect but is generally a mix of a few different areas and generally centred around knowledge or at least a lack thereof:
- Lack of appreciation of the work required
- Unsure of the correct machinery
- Lack of technical information provided by the manufacturer/ contractor
- Lack of knowledge regards the potential costs
- Lack of understanding that if maintenance isn't kept up to date what is the ultimate costs
- Lack of knowledge regarding certification, the process or how much it can cost in order to maintain a specific standard
The level of detail supplied by contractors can be a little lacking When handing over a new pitch. Often the amount of information a club receives is often down to what they expect and how much they are willing to pursue it, but often it is left up to a contractor to guide the way. A lot of contractors do offer a great post construction service but alas, all things must end and often a contractor is consumed by a need to start other things and draw a line under a previous project. This leaves a club in a situation where they essentially have a new car but don't know how to put fuel into it, let alone what the service intervals are or how much they will cost.
Take home points from this article are to understand that everything requires maintenance, nothing more so than an artificial pitch. The best-case scenario is that a pitch becomes a little uncomfortable to play on, however, at its worst an artificial pitch can be outright dangerous. Based on the points outlined above try to get a better appreciation of the entire life requirements of a new facility because remember, nobody remembers day 1!
Let's do the sums; a playing surface should last a minimum of 10 years and any sinking fund should be based upon that timeline. Any warranty issued will be based upon an average hour's play which is typically a sum commensurate to 35 hours per week. Now that seems a lot, however, once a new facility opens there is often a need to rent it out and make it pay for itself which can dramatically push up the hours, obviously depending on how popular it is. Over a 10 year lifespan, a club will require to put aside approximately €2,041.66 per month which excludes any maintenance costs which can be on average approximately €6,500.00 per year. By extending the life span of a pitch by just a further 2 years, a club can decrease the monthly sinking fund payments by €340.28 per month and even more still, if the pitch life can be extended by a further 4 years to 14 years, it will decrease the monthly payments by €583.33. If you take the yearly average of maintenance to be approximately €6,500.00 per year it will cost €541.66 per month over the 14 years. So what started as only paying for pitch replacement over 10 years your sinking fund now over 14 years will also fully cover maintenance costs over that period when previously it didn't and, maintenance is essential in order for the facility to reach that 14 year milestone.
The above example is based upon a pitch size of 7,000m2. The above essentially buys a club time. Time to be used to apply for grants, start fundraising, plan for the replacement, conduct a thorough review of surfaces available, secure alternative playing facilities when works are ongoing etc. Maintain today to help you plan for tomorrow.