As latest figures show UK rainfall at record highs and set to increase, the Great British weather is increasingly having a devastating impact on the nation’s favourite sports – with flooding disrupting international cricket tournaments, football pitches left too waterlogged to play, and golfing greens facing widespread disease.
Unsurprisingly, contractors are now under greater pressure to future-proof sports pitches and ensure spectators can enjoy watching sports all year round, which has spurred a new generation of sports construction materials offering enhanced drainage characteristics – the likes of which have never been seen before.
Here, Tom Wise, General Manager at Garside Sands division of Aggregate Industries examines how the latest innovations in infill sands can help synthetic sport pitches stay high and dry whatever the weather.
For many years the famous unpredictable British weather and inadequate facilities have meant that many sports have suffered. But whether it is the global TV revenues of showpiece sporting events at risk, or the weekly income which local sports clubs up and down the country rely so heavily on, unplayable surfaces are causing a serious issue.
UK average rainfall is increasing, playing havoc with sports pitches at all levels of competition. Research from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs shows that between 1998 and 2013, total annual rainfall for the UK surpassed 1,200mm six times. The same only happened once in the 18 years leading up to that period.
This trend shows no sign of changing, and nor is it restricted to the winter months. Last summer we had 32.8% more rainfall than the average summer figure, making it the 11th wettest summer on record for the UK and the fifth wettest on record in Scotland, according to the Met Office.
In some areas, of course, the issue is even more damaging. The Lake District, Western Scotland and North Wales are amongst the areas that experience the highest rainfall in the UK, due to their location and topography, with warm moist westerly winds driving rainfall from Atlantic weather systems. One recent study suggests certain areas of the UK experience rainfall at 300% of the national average, yet pitch design and infill materials do not reflect the variations.
The impact of rainfall
With sports clubs and venues across the length of the UK at the mercy of the elements more than ever, wet weather is increasingly having a detrimental impact on the performance qualities of synthetic sports surfaces. The result is unacceptable disruption to spectators and athletes alike.
In some cases, we have seen surfaces which were installed as little as 5 years ago rendered outdated and sometimes unplayable due to changing environmental trends, made worse by poor maintenance.
For club operators and greenkeepers, it has never been more important to specify the right sports construction materials and undertake the correct maintenance procedures in order to protect their investment.
Manufacturers have responded with continued innovation of sports construction materials including future-proof drainage solutions to ensure longevity and maximum return on investment.
Importance of infills
One area of innovation has been silica infill sands, which serve a number of purposes including weighing down the surface, preventing rippling, increasing fire resistance, protecting the backing and, of course, drainage, by acting as a filter to regulate the flow of water through to the subgrade.
Leading manufacturers are dedicating huge time and investment within their laboratories to develop future-proof infills which can support with the ongoing threat of flooding. ProPitch Elite, for example, is a new generation of infill sand from Aggregate Industries’ Garside Sands and Levenseat division which offers superior drainage performance, specifically designed for sports pitches at risk of flooding.
The secret to this new generation is the inclusion of larger rounded particles to provide superior void space for enhanced drainage. Traditionally, market leading silica infills like the 2EW sand from Garside and Levenseat Sands offer a nominal effective particle size of between 0.25mm and 0.39mm. Whilst this remains suitable in most areas, ProPitch Elite signals a new approach for areas of extreme rainfall with nominal effective particle size of between 04mm to 0.8mm
Through continuous product development and rigorous testing, manufacturers are bringing to market products to support operators to overcome the challenge of increasingly wet winters (and summers too) – withstanding the new norm of average rainfall, protecting their investment and maintaining all-important revenue from sports pitches. In fact, ProPitch Elite is proven to drain 25% faster than the best silica sand on the market, 2EW and 116% better than the most popular competitor sands.
From 3G synthetic sports pitches for football and hockey, to tennis courts and bowling greens, the continued innovation of silica infills will help to future-proof artificial playing surfaces in line with changing weather patterns – but only if forward thinking contractors are switched on to the benefits.
Working closely with manufacturers, the onus is now on contractors to understand the issue, educate the customer and deliver added value. For once, we must be encouraged to talk about the weather.
For further information, please call Garside Sands 01525 237911 or email Garside.firstname.lastname@example.org.