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Is there really such thing as an 'all weather' pitch?

As the UK braces for winter, it may be time for you to consider whether your sports provision is equipped to withstand torrid weather.

Granted, the British climate is usually more rain than snowstorms, but even rain can be enough to put a damper on sports if your pitches are outdoors.  

Presumably, you’d like the option to play sports all year. Is an outdoor pitch really going to give the best return on your investment?

What’s the prevailing climate in your area?

Even if you decide to gamble on the weather, it’s impossible to guarantee that an outdoor pitch will be usable year round. Unless you experience zero rainfall, an indoor facility will always have offered more playable hours—which means a better payoff on your investment.

Can outdoor pitches be 'all weather'?

Many artificial sports pitches term themselves ‘all weather’ pitches.

It’s true that having an artificial surface outdoors can help avoid the issue of waterlogged grass. Even still, in cases of inadequate drainage water can build up on the pitch surface, particularly where poor pitch maintenance has allowed surface materials to become compacted.

Still, if looked after correctly an artificial pitch may be playable in most weathers.

But, for one, there is a difference between somewhere it’s possible to play and somewhere players actually want to play, and for two, in countries which suffer low temperatures it’s virtually impossible for an external pitch to be playable 365 days a year. 

What happens to artificial pitches in winter?

Artificial pitches retain a large amount of water during winter months. This will freeze, of course, making the surface hard and dangerous to play on.

It’s also common for artificial pitches to stay frozen even when surrounding grass has thawed. This is because astroturf has a low core temperature which, combined with the insulating effect of the carpet, causes the pitch to remain frozen. Something which is particularly true during winter due to low daylight, which means areas in shade remain colder and thus stay frozen for longer.

Snow will stick fast to an already frozen pitch. Once settled, it’s extremely difficult to shift, especially if not cleared immediately.

If the snow thaws and refreezes it will be near impossible to remove without damaging the sports surface beneath. And once you’ve moved the snow, there’s the question of where to put it.

Not to mention, whether a pitch is playable is a moot point if external conditions are bad enough to dissuade your players from going outside. A pitch playable in torrential downpour is no use if your players are too cold and wet to fully participate.

What’s the alternative?

While adverse weather is definitely an issue, there is a viable solution: an indoor sports facility.

This may seem like a costly venture. Walls, insulation, and internal fit out… it must all add up, surely?

Well, not necessarily.

As long as the right build method is used, you may find your budget can go further than you think. Buildings constructed using the tensile method, consisting of a steel framework and architectural membrane, are generally more cost-effective.

There are less materials, and many of the components can be prefabricated, meaning construction time is reduced both on and off site. All of this adds up to a more economical building, made even more so when considering your sports space is now playable January through December.

They can even be fit out with 3G football and rubgy pitches for indoor training, like Clickimin Sports Complex in Shetland, and Eirias Park in Colwyn Bay, Wales (now Stadiwm Zip World).

Choosing a contractor experienced in tensile methodology can help ensure you get the best facility possible.

With tensile roofing allowing natural light to permeate the space, you may find that your running costs are significantly reduced in comparison to, say, a traditional build, or the constant maintenance needed to protect an external surface from bad weather damage.

When the right materials and methods are used, a tensile sports facility can be relatively low maintenance. 

Collinson is a national sports facility specialist specialising in tensile and modular construction. If you’d like to talk about your project, call 01995 606 451.

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