Close-up: Paul Baas, Field Manager at Amsterdam ArenA
ESSMA interviewed Paul Baas, Field Manager at Amsterdam ArenA and responsible for the pitch since the 2016/2017 season, about the daily operations and how they manage the pitch. Amsterdam ArenA is the host venue of our Pitch Management Workshop taking place on 17 and 18 April.
In terms of grounds team and equipment, which resources do you have at your disposition?
On average, we spend 160 hours a week preparing our hybrid PlayMaster pitch. In total, we are with three full-time employees and the remaining hours, part-time employees help us. In terms of equipment we work with:
- A Kubota tractor 25 hp
- Two Dennis Premium mowers
- Two Infinicut full electric cylinder mowers
- A John Deere tractor 20 hp
- Jacobson three-piece green mower with optrix measuring sensors
- Iseki tractor 30hp
- SGL LED Stadium Grow Lighting
- Full field sprinkling with 42 sprinkles
- Field heating
- A Line marking machine
- Other tools: an aeration machine, 2 Seegrow units, an overseeder, a Hardi with 400l tank, a fertilizer spreader, a sand spreader, etc.
Do you have an overview of pitch hours?
This season we’ll have 41 games (including home games of AFC Ajax, international games of the Dutch national team, friendly games, etc.) and 20 training sessions. Furthermore, the pitch has been fully covered twice during the football season to host music concerts.
What is the main challenge you and your team face on a daily basis?
Our main challenge is the lack of airflow and natural light, in combination with the busy pitch schedule of both matchday and non-matchday events.
“The retractable roof has both advantages and disadvantages. In bad weather conditions or when it’s too hot, we can protect the pitch by closing the roof. However, when the weather conditions are good, the natural sunlight cannot reach the entire pitch.”
The Amsterdam ArenA opted for a hybrid PlayMaster pitch, what was the main reason for implementing a hybrid pitch?
Amsterdam ArenA organises several non-matchday events during the summer break. As a result, we cannot grow a full natural pitch because of limited time and natural sunlight. Therefore, we opted for a PlayMaster to ensure optimal quality of our pitch.
Which impact has the retractable roof on the pitch?
The retractable roof has both advantages and disadvantages. In bad weather conditions or when it’s too hot, we can protect the pitch by closing the roof. However, when the weather conditions are good, the natural sunlight cannot reach the entire pitch.
Around 40% of our pitch has no direct natural light and from November to February there is no natural light. During these months we use a large SGL Stadium Grow Lighting system, which we move every 24 hours so the pitch gets at least 20 hours of light in 2 days. During the other months, we analyse the pitch data to make sure that each part of the pitch gets an equal amount of light and where necessary use the LED system on damaged or shady parts of the pitch.
Data tracking software is implemented at Amsterdam ArenA. Can you explain the most important aspects of the data you analyse?
In total, there are 15 sensors integrated in the pitch and 30 sensors around the stadium as well as other sensors for our weather stations. Our main focus when collecting the data is pitch quality and climate management as well as supporting our existing knowledge. When we implement certain actions, we analyse e.g. temperature, EC value, humidity, etc. and determine whether it has been successful. All this data is collected in a dashboard, which also include performance measurements. On Day 2 of the Pitch Management Workshop we will provide insights on our pitch dashboard.
“Currently we use the dashboard to visualise all the data but our goal is to predict with certain parameters what will happen to the pitch.”
Which role plays technology with regard to the pitch?
Technology is helping us to act quicker. Nowadays we can determine changes in an earlier stage and prevent problems or solve them earlier.
Because Amsterdam ArenA has an innovative mindset, we are always up-to-date regarding the latest pitch and stadium developments. For example, on a weekly basis we collect and analyse the data, we continuously update and improve our dashboard and we’re looking at how we can make our LED system more energy efficient and improve its quality. It is the ambition of Amsterdam ArenA to be one of the most innovative stadiums in the world, both for the pitch and the entire stadium.