RSI Sports Stadium Concept Covers Everything
The Ghelamco Arena is Belgium’s most modern sports arena, but maintaining that position requires external expertise when it comes to the stadium field. Club and stadium management have adopted the RSI SPORTS Stadium Concept. They are now assured that all fields will always be in optimum condition, thanks to the use of the latest high-tech products and solutions.
Ghelamco Arena in Ghent was inaugurated in 2013 and quickly became a hive of activity. Apart from accommodating the home games of top-flight football club AA Gent, the venue also houses 500 offices, a supermarket, a pharmacy and a day-care facility, to name a few. In terms of comfort and quality, the modern multi-purpose venue delivers unrivalled quality and comfort to fans and visitors. However, the experience for the players used to be a bit different, admits Dirk Piens who is responsible for the infrastructure of the stadium and the club. “We have always struggled to keep the field in good playing condition, as the positioning and design of the stadium have an impact on the optimum grass growth conditions.”
Like in many cities around the globe, space is scarce in Ghent, which left the club and stadium management no other option than accepting the open space that was vacant on the shoulder of the nearby E40 and E17 motorways when they developed their plans for a new venue. “We had to make certain sacrifices in order to accommodate and please our fans which, unfortunately, turned out to come at the expense of the field.” With the field being up for refurbishment, stadium management decided to look for a partner with whom they could enter into an all-inclusive agreement to change the status quo. “The fact that RSI SPORTS always explores new technologies and adds them to their portfolio the moment the technology and results have been proven is very reassuring. It shows they are always in pursuit of delivering the best possible field,” he points out. “As they had installed an artificial turf on our youth development complex in 2019, we were already familiar with the RSI SPORTS vision and how they implement it. Their proposal to help us achieve a stadium field suitable for this venue was very convincing.”
Best of the Best
The core of the RSI SPORTS Stadium Concept for the Ghelamco Arena is the HYBRIGRASS hybrid field. “It has a backing that is at least 50% porous, thus giving grass a better chance to establish a dense natural carpet. At the same time, the density of the artificial grass blades in between can range from 500 gr/m2 to 1,000 gr/m2. This gives us more flexibility in terms of the artificial grass vs natural grass ratio and will allow us to have more artificial grass in areas that are used heavily, and less artificial grass in areas of the field that are not used that often,” Rob de Heer explains, on behalf of RSI SPORTS. “To ensure maximum results from the new hybrid surface, we will also adjust the drainage and irrigation system in accordance with our projected needs.” He points out that maintenance activities will be driven by knowledge obtained through various smart technologies. “We will use smart and artificial intelligence technology to automatically establish the settings of the various maintenance technologies as well as the controls that supply water, light, oxygen and fertilizer to the pitch. Subsoil sensors will continuously feed important parameters like Cation exchange capacity (CEC), soil temperature and moisture levels to our base station. Together with data obtained from a weather (forecasting) station, electronic disease control database and historic data regarding the pitch needs, all data combined will dictate the kind of maintenance and supplements the field needs.”
Complete Light Spectrum
Maintenance equipment RSI SPORTS will deploy a range of solutions from industrial-sized cool air cannons to maintain the desirable grass growth temperature and supplement the oxygen levels, to cover sheets to protect the grass from the elements or to establish the perfect growing conditions during the off-season. However, the real eye-catchers will ultimately be the unique Rhenac Sports LED grass grow technology and UV-C grass care technology. Arnoud Fiolet of RSI SPORTS explains: “Rhenac Sports LED is the only producer of LED grass grow and grass care technology that can produce the complete light spectrum. Together with the bio centre of the Ludwig-Maximilians University of Munich, they established exactly the light color and intensity grass needs in certain conditions and translated this scientific knowledge to settings for their LED technology.” Once commissioned, the Rhenac Sports LED grass grow technology will produce the red color to help grass seeds to germinate and to increase biomass, or the blue color to increase the sward density and to contribute to root growth. “As blue light also helps reduce the length growth of the grass and makes it less susceptible to diseases, our LED light treatment will eventually also play an important role in maintaining the field.”
Due to COVID-19, the investment in the LED grass grow technology has been be delayed a bit. However, the Ghelamco Arena will benefit from the Rhenac Sports LED grass care technology from the very beginning. “The Rhenac SPORTS LED UV-C 600 does the opposite from what the Rhenac Sports LED grass grow technology does. The UV-C 600 emits a specific green light that derives algae, fungi and diseases from their optimum growing conditions. It is a much more sustainable approach towards maintaining football fields free of diseases and is perfectly in line with the green and sustainable ambitions of all governing bodies and authorities.”
RSI SPORTS will work closely together with the existing grounds crew of the Ghelamco Arena and AA Gent. “We currently employ seven people to look after the stadium field, as well as the fields on our youth development complex and the training facility for the main team,” Dirk Piens states. The three locations have seven fields collectively, of which two are covered with an artificial turf surface. “Our crew is very dedicated and hands-on. As a lot of the maintenance will be much more data-driven in the future, we have agreed that RSI SPORTS will mentor these guys. Combining the knowledge and experience of our team with the knowledge and understanding RSI SPORTS has about grass grow and grass care should certainly lead to some perfect pitches.” Each member of the grounds crew team will receive training and technological devices to help them in establishing and monitoring the pitch conditions. In addition to receiving a better stadium field, Piens expects to also achieve significant financial savings as well as gaining sustainability credits. “The scientific and data driven approach by RSI SPORTS will mean that we will maintain our surfaces with pinpoint accuracy. This will allow us to use water and fertilizers more wisely. Once the LED grass grow technology comes online we also anticipate achieving significant energy savings. The high pressure sodium technology we currently use to supplement the grass is a real energy consumer, whereas the Rhenac Sports LED technology will be more effective and less demanding.” As sustainability is important to AA Gent and the Ghelamco Arena, the RSI SPORTS focus of Reliable, Sustainable and Innovative sports infrastructure will blend in perfectly.
The RSI SPORTS Stadium Concept is an all-inclusive approach towards better stadium fields by installing the best possible solution and using data, technology and experience to maintain the field with pinpoint accuracy. The Belgian Ghelamco Arena will soon use it to further boost its position of being the most modern sports venue in the country.
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