St. George's Park is located in the middle of England and is the national training centre for all 24 of the England Football Association's teams, ranging from under-16s to the senior team. It was opened in 2012 and contains 14 (soon to be 15) pitches, one indoor artificial pitch, a rehabilitation and workout facility, a restaurant and bar, and a hotel.
We had the opportunity to stay a night at St. George's and get a tour from head groundsman Alan Ferguson. He and his staff of only 14 tend to the pitches and landscaping around St. George's Park.
Me with head groundsman Alan Ferguson
Over head view of St. George's Park (from huffingtonpost.com)
There are two Desso pitches on site at St. George's with more hybrid grass pitches planned in the near future. The senior team's training pitch is meant to be an exact replica of Wembley Stadium and is reserved for them alone. It is in outstanding condition year round.
While serving the England National Teams takes up a lot of his time, Alan also has to deal with other teams coming to use his grounds. From squads like Barcelona to the Qatari National Team, to rugby teams and women's football, these pitches are played on year round with very little time to rest.
Because of the busy schedule, it is tough to find time to renovate the pitches properly. His job is unique in that way, as there really is no off-season for him like other groundsman get normally. So, he must renovate a couple of pitches at a time in order to keep the others available for use.
Alan still finds a way to renovate and also uses the Koro Field Top Maker on his pitches. He employs the use of verti cutting to really encourage the spread of his desired grass (Lolium perrene) and help slow down Poa annua, which invades these pitches from the surrounding prairie and forest. This practice also helps him to grow in pitches quickly in tight windows of time.
Four weeks post renovation. Two more weeks and it will be fully recovered.
Senior Team pitch - replica of Wembley Stadium
Much like many of the top groundsman I have met this week, Alan is always willing to try something new and adapts to the challenges that managing this complex creates.