THE STATE OF THE ART removable turf pitch at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium is set to be abandoned less than two years after being installed.
Instead, a more expensive system of ripping up the damaged pitch at regular intervals and replacing the entire grass surface is likely to be adopted.
The decision is thought to have been prompted by the need to relay a new surface on top of the modular pitch ahead of Saturday's FA Cup final. It was badly damaged during the LDV Cup final on 22 April.
The original £1M pitch, installed by specialist surfacer Inturf for contractor Laing, was designed to be easy and cheap to repair. The surface is made up of 7,400 1.2m square pitch modules set in 150mm deep trays which can be removed separately to allow local repairs to be made.
Based on the latest US technology, the system was also chosen to enable the pitch to be removed while other events such as concerts or exhibitions were held on the asphalt surface beneath.
However, maintenance of this type of pitch requires specialist knowledge. It is understood that Inturf has not attended the stadium for six months.
Costing twice the price of a conventional surface, the modular pitch is based on the system used at the Giants Stadium in New Jersey. But, unlike Cardiff, this ground has a complete set of spare modules, to enable one surface to regenerate in open ground outside the stadium before being swapped.
The Millennium Stadium contract did not provide for a spare set. Stadium managers have opted for the £100,000 resurfacing by alternative contractor Hewitt to ensure that the pitch is playable.
Surfacing expert Dr James MacDuff of the Institute of Grassland & Environmental Research estimated that under this system, the pitch would require resurfacing at least three times a year. This would soon reach the cost of a spare set of modules.
A stadium spokesman confirmed that the pitch was being overhauled but said: 'Inturf was engaged for a long term solution, while Hewitt has been engaged for a short term solution.'