"There's a way to do it better - find it." - Thomas Edison
This quote by the famous inventor is a simple reminder that there is always room for improvement, even if everything seems to be going perfectly. The Arsenal ground staff is constantly on the lookout for new products and ideas to help them do what they do better.
(Diagram from naturalgrass.com)
One new development this year is the installation of a hybrid sports turf called AirFibr. Straight from the manufacturers website, naturalgrass.com, says, "The AirFibr technology is made of 100% natural turf anchored in an artificial root zone. Sand, cork, and synthetic microfibers create a soft, yet resilient surface for optimal drainage, stability, and player safety."
The construction of this new pitch at Arsenal comes after a couple years of testing at the training ground. The AirFibr technology was implemented in high wear areas, mainly right in front of the goals on a few of the pitches.
The result turned out to be areas that withstood the higher levels of traffic and wear and allowed the natural grass to thrive. The modified root zone provides a less compacted, air-filled environment for the plant roots to grow. The fiber and cork allow for the pitch to absorb energy from the player and lessen the impact of the pitch on the athlete's body.
4" wide and 8" deep AirFibr profile (from growinggreengrass.net)
AirFibr has been around for a few years now, mostly found in soccer and rugby stadiums in France. According to their website, it is also used at the Omaha Beach Memorial in Normandy, France in areas with very intense foot traffic. As for soccer, along with the implementation at Arsenal, it is also found at Real Madrid's training ground and it will be in 5 out of the 10 stadiums used for the UEFA European Championship 2016 in France, which starts June 10th.
For more information about the AirFibr, including more in depth about the benefits to player biomechanics and safety, visit Jared Minnick's article Welcome to the Future?!.
Pile of AirFibr
Up close, you can see the microfibers, little bits of cork, and sand
A bit of the micro fibers poking out of the grass
First AirFibr pitch at the training ground looking good at a about a month old