City begin their 2023/24 Sky Bet Championship campaign at home against Preston North End on Saturday, August 5th, when Nigel Pearson’s men will have the chance to run out on the new top-class surface for the very first time.
Starting just days after Ashton Gate hosted the sold-out Arctic Monkeys concert, the existing pitch was removed and the ground levelled with a sand and root zone mix by contractors before being seeded ready for County Turf’s HERO Hybrid Grass – 95 per cent natural and five per cent polyethylene plastic fibres – to be installed.
Once that three-week process was finished, Ashton Gate’s grounds team took over the project and immediately got to work on growing and regularly cutting the grass to ensure the pitch was in prime condition to welcome back Bristol Bears and City’s men and women – following their promotion back to the Barclays Women’s Super League.
With just hours to go until City’s men kick off their league curtain-raiser at the leading sports and conference venue in the South West, the final touches are being made to the pitch – which is the same as the surface installed at Bears High Performance Centre – as excitement builds for what promises to be a blockbuster season in BS3.
Bristol Sport Group Grounds Manager Dan Sparks said: “The pitch has come on really well. We’ve increased our cutting as the grass matured and come through and then it’s been about getting the goals out, setting up the practice goals, cleaning the corner flags, basically all the things that were packed away for the summer.
“Frequency of cutting is important, as soon as it comes through and you’ve got that establishment, the more you cut the thicker and stronger the grass gets and then it fills in the bits in between, and that’s the process we’ve adopted and when the weather’s allowed, we’ve been out there cutting, so for us it’s been looking at the forecast and picking out windows.
“During June it was bone dry and really sunny and that was during the project, that was a three-week project that was really tight, we had to keep moving to the next stage of the project and that seeding date was ever so important as we knew six weeks on was our first game and we didn’t have time for wet days and to call off the job which we luckily managed to avoid.
“It only started raining after the seed was in the ground so we were very lucky in that respect and it was a tight, three weeks from when Arctic Monkeys left to when the pitch contractors came in and the seed was in the ground so it’s been a busy summer but we’re pleased with where we’re at.”
City’s season-open against Preston North End will draw a sell-out crowd and with all eyes on the new hybrid pitch, the grounds team are going above and beyond in the build-up to matchday to make sure the surface delivers the best first impression come 3pm.
Sparks added: “For us you want the first impression to be ‘wow, the pitch looks great’ so it’s just about dialling in on the pitch patterns so you can see those nice cut stripes and bright white lines come Saturday. We have to make sure everything is in place as it needs to be.”