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Sustainable sports facility maintenance – long lasting and environmentally compatible


It is no secret that good sports facilities need good maintenance. And yet it can be seen again and again that the definition of "good and sustainable maintenance" differs greatly in many cases. Above all the as "easy care" advertised artificial turf pitches often suggests to many users that cleaning and maintenance measures are practically unnecessary. Exactly the opposite is however true, correct and regular care is decisive for the durability of the surface and this makes it an important economic and ecological factor. This also applies to clay playing surfaces and athletic running tracks where regular maintenance and care is also required.

Correct care of sports surfaces is significantly more important today than for several years. This applies especially to outdoor facilities for school or leisure-time sport as well as to many community stadiums which were given very little care and attention and a minimum maintenance. In many places this has not changed today, even though requirements for sport facility maintenance are laid down in DIN and EN standards as well as being good with regard to sustainability. Apart from the economic and environmental aspects, above all safety of the athletes must be given priority.


Natural grass – regular, environmentally compatible care is absolutely necessary

It should be clear to everyone that a natural grass sports pitch needs regular care. Measures should be taken at the very latest when the grass is ankle deep or has been worn completely away. Although it is better, of-course, not to let things get that far. The German association for grass research (Deutsche Rasengesellschaft e.V.) allocates intensity of care measures for a grass sport pitch into three levels: Level 1, "basic care" includes watering of the grass at intervals of 10-15 l / m², cutting to a height of 3-4 cm a regular use of fertiliser with 20-28 g pure N /m². During periods of regular training and match play, level 2 "Maintaining care" should be applied. This includes regular scarifying, aeration and sanding of the pitch which not only prevents 'thatching' or matting of the grass, but also protects it from a range of other ailments. Level 3, "Regenerative care" is used when a hard worn pitch needs to be repaired and regenerated. Most important measures are loosening of substrate, re-sowing and improving the ground with root activation.

Plant protection products (such as pesticides) may be used although these should be avoided as far as possible and used sparingly and as an exception in order to protect the environment and health in general. With regular and comprehensive care, ailments and pests can be prevented naturally. If pesticides are used, these must be approved for use on sports pitches according to existing legislation (in Germany this is § 17 PflSchG) and only used on cultivated land.


Artificial turf – regular care required

Artificial turf needs regular care! The more thorough and better the care taken of an artificial turf pitch, the longer it will be suitable for use. As disposal of artificial turf may involve pollution of the environment and as installation of a new artificial turf surface causes high costs, regular care and maintenance of an existing artificial turf pitch should be important to the people responsible for it and those who play on it. According to DIN EN standards, manufacturers of artificial turf are required to inform users about the care and maintenance of the material but often, the advice given is not followed to the letter for fear of high maintenance costs. Maintenance measures can be differentiated as "regular" and "advanced". Regular maintenance measures should be carried out once or twice each month; advanced measures, at least once a year. A variety of specialised machines, which can carry out more than one process at once, are available for these maintenance measures.

Machines for regular maintenance, available either as towed or ride-on units, are swivelling brushes driven with soft wheels and equipped with adjustable sieves. The filler material is collected, rubbish (stones, leaves, cigarette ends, pieces of broken glass, nails, broken pile fibres etc.) removed and distributed evenly back onto the turf. A constant amount of filler material in the sieve system at any one time is the decisive factor in redistribution of filler to the turf in the areas exposed to hard wear where filler is depleted by use. Regulation application of this technology and a corresponding driving method, taking note of these depleted areas, ensure evenly distributed levels of filler material. This in turn, means that the turf fibres are well supported by filler material and, therefore, give the artificial turf surface a longer life expectancy.

Machines with mechanically rotating brushes, adjustable hole-sized sieves and suction turbines are used during advanced care. Rubbish is removed from the filler material which is distributed evenly again over the surface of the turf. Apart from cleaning of the surface, redistribution of filler material and brushing of the turf fibres, this kind of machine can also aerate the artificial turf system, clean it down to the substrate and replenish filler material. Tractor-towed units and ride-on machines with a variety of front or rear-attached accessory equipment is usually used for this maintenance work. As an alternative to purchasing this kind of machinery, it is possible to hire service companies with their own equipment to carry out the maintenance work.

Clay surfaces – prevention of injury

Yes, they still exist. Even though the number of clay hard surfaces and tracks is strongly decreasing, there are still enough of them around in regular use. Regular care is particularly important here, especially to ensure an even distribution and replenishment of the filler material. Only a loose and sufficiently deep layer of clay or cinder particles can provide sufficient protection for athletes against injury from the hard layer under the top layer. Care and maintenance should depend on the degree of use and weather conditions. Rubbish and natural deposits such as leaves or weeds should be removed at an early stage. Water permeability should be checked regularly and good drainage ensured by loosening of the substrate.

Synthetic surfaces

Synthetic running tracks or pitches, whether cast in-situ or hybrid surfaces, also require specific maintenance measures. Apart from removal of dust and pollution, priority should be given to slip resistance. It should be ensured that no water can collect on the surface and that no slippery coating of dirt and algae can form. Regular brushing of the surface is not sufficient; use of machines or equipment with high-pressure water jets which remove all dirt is optimal. In this way, running tracks are quickly returned to an optimal condition and their life expectancy extended.

Regular and sustained maintenance ensures not only that sports facilities are maintained in first class condition for the athletes using them, it also reduces the danger of injury, saves costs and respects the environment. This is only one of the many reasons for sports facility managers and operators to make sure that sufficient maintenance work is carried out.


Note: In the new brochure "Tactic and technology for care of artificial turf", the German company SMG (SMG Sportplatzmaschinenbau GmbH) differentiates between "regular" and "advanced" care. The different tasks, such as e.g. surface cleaning, replenishment of filler material, brushing of the artificial turf fibres, etc., are explained carefully and according to the type of equipment required. With the help of symbols, customers can easily find the suitable equipment required, especially as the recommendations given also taken the size of the facility into account. More information can be found at: www. http://www.smg-gmbh.de/de.


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