New AFL/Cricket sportsground at Blacktown Olympic Park opens

Posted on May 11th, 2012

M.Collins Completes Construction of Sydney’s Newest AFL and Cricket Stadiam

Sydney’s leading sportsground construction company, M. Collins and Sons (Contractors) Pty Limited, recently completed the construction and maintenance of two, new state-of-the-art AFL/Cricket sportsgrounds at Blacktown Olympic Park, a joint venture between Blacktown City Council, AFL NSW and Cricket NSW.

The contractual inclusions of this elite sportsground construction project was not only the enormity of the project in terms of material volume requirements and time frame but significantly the degree of intensity and scrutiny of conformance testing and external auditing and documentation required for the sportsground growing media, cricket wicket clay soil and drainage gravel. The two elite sportsgrounds were constructed using the well proven “perched water table” derived from golf green constructions.

The project’s scope of works comprised final preparation and stabilization of imported sub-base soil, installation of an elaborate system of plastic draining pipes with associated outlets, installation of an automatic irrigation system and production, delivery and consolidation of high-quality growing media and drainage gravel and finally, supply and installation of washed couchgrass (Cynodon dactylon).

The contract concluded in July following a 12-week period of post-grassing maintenance. M. Collins and Sons were awarded this prestigious contract in October 2008 when the initial site establishment and land survey were conducted. The Collins Contracting Team responsible for the works were under the watchful contract management of Dave Pocock, and overseen by project manager, John Matthews.

Sportsfield construction and contracting experience, effective co-ordination, qualified service and quality-control management systems. This was the recipe skilfully used by M. Collins & Sons for the construction of these two elite sportsgrounds. The construction of the two new cricket wickets and surrounding playing fields involved a meticulous process, throughout which M. Collins & Sons was able to utilise their proven wicket and sportsfield construction knowledge.

The Collins experience dates back to 1895 when the company built the cricket wicket at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Over one hundred years on, Collins’ expertise is still alive has been showcased again in the construction of what is designed to be Sydney’s second major cricket and AFL facility. Managing Director, Matt Collins, says that the company prides itself on being Sydney’s oldest and most established sportsturf contractor. It is amazing that one company can continue among the leaders in a field for over one hundred years, and still be renown for the same quality and old-fashioned service, Collins says.

The Scope of Works

Drainage aggregate and pipework

The detailed drainage design beneath the cricket wicket table and sportsgrounds at Blacktown Olympic Park involved the excavation of a series of 250mm-wide drainage trenches, according to a herringbone pattern including a perimeter drain around the wicket, which drained into the base at its lowest point. Plastic drainage pipes were enveloped with drainage aggregate in the constructed trenches and the entire subgrade was overlain by a layer of clean, washed, crushed CRG at a minimum thickness of 100mm. The finished surface grade met specification at a tolerance of 25mm. Production, stockpiling and testing of the drainage aggregate included a Quality Management Plan documented and implemented by M. Collins. Industry-recognized construction engineering factors of bridging, uniformity and permeability were required and met for the drainage aggregate against the growing media. The contract required on sample per 500 cubic metres of drainage aggregates to be tested and approximately 6,000 tonne of drainage aggregate was required.

Cricket wicket tables

In excess of 1,000 cubic metres of Collins wicket soil was required to complete the construction of the cricket wicket tables. The construction of the two centre wicket tables and one practice wicket was completed by the sequential installation of Collins wicket soil in three layers, ensuring each clay soil layer was compacted according to requirements of the specification by field measurement. The first two layers of wicket soil were 100mm in depth and screened at 15mm, whilst the surface layer was 50mm in depth and screened at 5mm. Once completed, the wicket table profile was frequently irrigated and rolled, ensuring the finished surface would not show any signs of ponding and that it was the required 50mm higher than the surrounding playing field. Collins washed Legend couchgrass was selected for the wicket, renowned for its vigorous root growth and tolerance to wear and recovery from physical wear.

Sportsground growing media

The nominated specification required for the sportsground growing media was the AGCSATech Sand Specification and the product was organically-amended using a processed fowl manure. The growing media was sourced, produced and stockpiled at the company’s Spring Farm Quarry (Camden) under the scrutiny of Jason Lewis, Collins Quarry Manager. The supply contract for the growing media was underpinned by a stringent regime of sampling, external testing and documentation of the production stockpiles by a NATA-accredited laboratory.  In excess of 18,000 tonnes of amended growing media was required for the two sportsgrounds. The testing regime required one sample for every 250 cubic metres of the growing media be tested in accordance with USGA methodology to ensure compliance to physical performance against the nominated specification. In addition, samples of the growing media were required to conform against the confidence interval typically included in USGA specifications and also tested to provide a baseline of sand fertility and ensure freedom of any parasitic nematodes.

The approved growing medium was initially spread and consolidated on the playing surface in two 150mm layers. Chemical amendments were applied to the upper growing medium layer, including the addition of processed poultry manure, starter fertiliser and trace element mix. The consolidated growing medium was laser-leveled, surveyed and field measurements were independently conducted to determine and document bulk density against the nominated specification to ensure levelness and consistency prior to turfing.

Turf laying and Establishment

A premium couchgrass (Cynodon dactylon) was selected for the playing field and washed free of all soil and organic matter at the Company’s Turf Farm at Camden. Throughout this stage, 3,000 square metres of turf was washed and transported to Blacktown each day, where is was laid within 24 hours of being harvested. After laying, the turf was rolled using a light roller and put on an intensive and frequently irrigated for 5-6 days.

Contract Maintenance

Collins Contracting remained responsible for all maintenance aspects of the field until handover. The timeline was achieved by attention to programmed irrigation scheduling, fertiliser application based on the results of sand nutrition, frequent mowing and topdressing. The sportsgrounds were mown 2-3 times per week at a mowing height of 20-25mm until handover. Part of the maintenance contract was to monitor and achieve a root depth of 100mm throughout the outfields at handover.

The Project Outcome

The collaboration of Collins’ expertise, experience, management and communication with Blacktown City Council, saw the successful completion of the project according to required specifications and within the tight construction timetable. Collins quality-control management systems ensured that every stage of the project complied with required standards. Quality Assurance Manager, Gary Beehag, ensured that nothing was left to chance.  All the products used including the gravel, growing media and the turf, and were scrutinised using rigorous procedures of inspection, quality control and final auditing.

None of these procedures, however, were without careful implementation, Beehag points out.  “Whilst quality-control systems are essential, in the absence of finely tuned sports management skills, and attention to detail concerning playing surface preparation, all the documentation and auditing of sportsfield construction projects is meaningless.”

Collins Project Manager, John Matthews, was appointed to oversee the works and be on site full-time throughout the completion of the project. Matthews attributed the success of the project to being able to be present at Blacktown to supervise all the contractors and facilitate communication between Blacktown City Council and the various Collins staff involved both in the office and on the farms. Matthews was pleased that the project met all specifications and was completed on time for the council’s scheduled AFL tournament earlier this month, at which he said “the ground stood up to the test.”

Blacktown Olympic Park ConstructionGrowing Media over Gravel
Blacktown Olympic Park Turf
Stadium July 3Stadium 3rd July, 2009

Story by Anna Collins & Gary Beehag

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