'The cost is north of £500,000' - Norwich City fork out for the future
Norwich City’s top brass must watch every penny this summer. But a major outlay on the Carrow Road pitch was an essential piece of work that was long overdue, as Paddy Davitt discovered.
Steve Stone had a simple response to those who question why Norwich City have opted to shell out £500,000 on a new playing surface.
The Canaries face some tough financial decisions this summer designed to lower the wage bill and bring in a transfer surplus again, in a repeat of the last two windows, to adjust to a life after parachute payments.
But skimping on the Carrow Road pitch was not an option insists the club’s managing director, after City employed market leading Leicestershire-based firm Hewitt Sports Turf to oversee the makeover.
“You need a good quality pitch to play on. That is what I would say,” said Stone. “We are fortunate we have a lot of fans who come to watch home games and we want the best surface to give us the best chance.
“Clearly, we need the players to be able to do that but if you haven’t got the surface then you are fighting a losing battle with the style we want to try and play.
“We last did this in 2004. It has a lifespan of between about 12 and 14 years and it was clear during the past season we needed to do it again.
“The cost is north of £500,000 to do the work but you do then get a value from that spend in terms of the lifespan.
“We have been planning for this really from last summer.
“It was in our cost planning because the former pitch was on its last legs.”
Hewitt Sports Turf managing director, John Hewitt, revealed Colney’s playing surfaces will also benefit from the cutting edge project at Carrow Road.
“We have dug it out to a depth of about six inches and took that material to Colney to help with the construction on the academy and that will get used there,” he said.
“The only thing that gets thrown away is the green synthetic string.
“This story really began 14 years ago, when we constructed the pitch originally, which is all the base drainage, the undersoil heating, and the grass. The technology may have moved on in those 14 years but the principle is the same.
“We started here three weeks ago when we dug out everything apart from the base materials - like the undersoil heating and the drainage. That will last for 50 or 60 years.
“It was a week to dig out, a week to replace and then we aim to finish this part by next week and I will personally be re-seeding it.
“We are 100pc confident it will be ready for the start of the season.
“Two years ago we replaced the Emirates surface, last year we totally reconstructed the pitch at Anfield. This is normal for us. We do eight to 10 pitches a year.”
Hewitt’s firm has also been heavily involved in the re-development of Tottenham’s White Hart Lane.
“That has been going on for five or six years, because it is such a huge undertaking,” he said.
“It is a moveable pitch that moves out into a car park in three pieces, which will then expose the NFL pitch underneath. That will be something totally different.
“The usual cycle for a pitch is no less than 10 years and the most we have ever got out of this type of pitch is 17 years, at Huddersfield. All the Premier League has this type of pitch.
“Basically it means it is impossible to take a divot. You can skid on the surface, you can put a stud through it, but not a divot.
“That is what coaches want - they stability and games to be played in the same conditions where possible.
“With the advent of sports science now that has only accelerated this process and that consistency is the most important thing to them, in terms of injury prevention.
“If you go back to what we did 14 years ago the current price would be £1.2m but this is a half build, roughly £500,000.”