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FOOTBALL


We irrigate the stadium pitch and all nine training fields with reclaimed water, which is piped in





from a treatment plant ten miles away at El Segundo


I question whether having such a figure in the ranks bought extra stresses, not least, the constant demand to produce a safe, fair, aesthetically pleasing surface every time the team took to the field?


“Not at all. I mean, we’d do all that stuff


anyway. In fact, I would often approach David for his opinions, as he’d played on most of the best pitches in the world. Having access to a guy like that was brilliant for me and, despite soccer and its infrastructure being quite new over here, he never once criticised the surface the whole time he played for us”. Talking as we walk and regaling us with stories of soccer royalty, Shaun leads the way through the bowels of the enormous stadium and out onto the pitch. What greets us is an expanse of turf that has been in place for only three days, having just received its close season renovation. Surprisingly, this had been a re- turf (or ‘re-sod’ to use the local vernacular) rather than a new seed establishment and, more intriguingly, one of Shaun’s guys is traversing the length of the pitch with what


Mark Allen (left) in conversation with Shaun


can only be described as a ‘heavy roller’. Coming from the UK, where anything weightier than a human is rarely allowed upon a stadium pitch, this is quite a shock. Shaun must have sensed my surprise and immediately explains the reasoning behind the process:


“The NFL season finished at the very end of December and the first soccer friendly kicks off at the beginning of February. As much as I would love to establish a pitch from seed, the timescales just don’t allow it” “We re-sodded three days ago and the soccer boys kick off in seven days’ time. I appreciate that a two-tonne roller isn’t text book but, in my current situation ... well, I’ve just got to get this field flat. Aerification and decompaction can come later” It’s a fair point. Sometimes, unconventional thinking provides the greatest solution plus, this being Shaun’s umpteenth renovation cycle, it’s fair to assume that he knows what he is doing. Standing on the newly turfed pitch, it’s clear that the sward structure differs slightly from what we are used to seeing back in Blighty. Here in California, the sun loving ‘Bermuda grass’ is the go-to species, as it grows easily, roots deeply and is tolerant of most soil types. It also recovers quickly from damage and responds well to feed and water. It sounds ideal; and it is. In fact, the only issue comes when the weather turns cooler and cloudy. That’s when the addition of some Ryegrass is required to provide


additional strength and quality to the mix. Having endured drought conditions during 2018 back in the UK, I ask Shaun about the water situation over here. “Despite an almost constant drought problem in Los Angeles, we are not restricted in the amount of water we can apply. We irrigate the stadium pitch and all nine training fields with reclaimed water, which is piped in from a treatment plant ten miles away at El Segundo”.


Whilst appreciative of the freedom to run the irrigation system without limits, the quality of this recycled or ‘dirty water’ is not necessarily of the highest standard. This can bring its own problems. “All of the junk that’s in recycled water - the high sodium, high nitrates, high bicarbonates - makes it really challenging to keep the grass alive. Plus, with very limited rainfall, I’m not getting the acid rainfall to flush that stuff out.” However, the upside of using reclaimed water is a reduced requirement for artificial fertiliser applications: “Yeah, we don’t go as heavy on the fertilisation as the British stadium guys” smiles Mr Ilten. At the mention of the British guys, I’m


keen to know if Shaun has any links to the UK network of groundsmen? “Absolutely. I really value the relationships that I have been able to foster with the UK stadium guys, and not just those based in Great Britain. Paul Burgess of Real Madrid,


A surprising sight - a 2-tonne roller 52 PC April/May 2019


I really value the relationships that I have been able to foster with the UK stadium guys, and not just those based in Great Britain. Paul Burgess of Real Madrid, for example, has been a massive help to me over the last seven or eight years





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