BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA — New turf at a 100-year-old Brisbane sporting ground has polypropylene fibers woven through its base to strengthen the playing surface. The Brisbane Cricket Ground, known as "the Gabba," because it is in the suburb of Wooloongabba, has been resurfaced at a cost of A$3.8 million (US$2.2 million) for the Olympic soccer tournament in September. The Gabba is one of the few Sydney 2000 Olympic venues outside New South Wales.
The new surface is expected to improve drainage at the site dramatically and make the ground softer. The Gabba is a venue for cricket in summer and Australian-rules football in winter.
The PP-strengthened turf was developed by Melbourne-based HG Turf Pty. Ltd. PP fibers supplied by HG Turf's U.S. parent, Motz Group Inc. of Cincinnati, were tufted into a jute layer on a woven base. Then grass was planted in sand poured around the fibers, according to HG Turf Managing Director Hamish Sutherland.
The turf was grown on a farm near Brisbane, harvested in early March and laid on a sand base at the grounds two weeks later.
The PP-impregnated turf is gaining popularity in the United States. It was used last year at Pro Player Stadium in Miami during the Super Bowl. The surface was grown on golfer Greg Norman's Florida farm.
Motz also has used the technology at the University of Texas and at the home of the Atlanta Braves in Atlanta.
"A lot of high-event stadiums are replacing clay profiles with sand because of increased drainage benefits and surface playability. Sand is a lot more forgiving on players than clay," Sutherland said.
At the Gabba, the new surface, laid on top of an extensive system of pipes, will soak up 4 inches of water every hour, "10 times the rate of drainage of the old field," he said.
Sutherland said regular sand is not as stable as clay, and forms pits in areas of constant wear.
"The polypropylene fibers not only stabilize the sand profile, but also the turf itself. Ours is the first product to stabilize both," he said.
The turf can be rearranged like carpet tiles, allowing worn areas to be replaced with fresh grass.