There has been a loud rumbling from some players and coaches over the condition of the turf. There has been overt criticism by others such as Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett. The criticism centers on a turf surface that holds many challenges.
Firstly, it is a multi-use venue hosting the A League Soccer, Rugby League and Union games, university graduation ceremonies, music concerts such as ACDC, as well as the AFL. The schedule is often full, with only a day between events. As a result, the surface takes a pounding. Secondly, Etihad Stadium has a closeable roof and its shape allows only minimal natural light to help the grass grow.
These two factors mean that the turf has a battle to get ready week after week for AFL games.
As a result, the ground staff have had to be innovative in the way they help the turf to recover. The recent introduction of a bank of massive lights on irrigation style mountings above the turf aims to address these challenges. After the surface is reseeded, top dressed and watered the lights are put in place and turned on. The heat from these lights helps the grass to grow, reducing a normal week-long recovery cycle down to around three days. This heat also helps the grass develop deeper roots into the soil and compact the surface for the players. The light's energy bill is offset with green energy.
But will this be enough? The AFL have requested that pre AFL season events be canceled to allow a longer lead-in time for the surface to settle. As the Etihad ground staff battle to get their surface out of media spotlight, time and this new technology will tell if the AFL are confident with the result. Already, the AFL and even Jeff Kennett seem to be pleased with the steps being taken. Kennett said he was "grateful that the AFL and Etihad now seem to be taking this matter seriously."
Etihad Stadium is housed in Melbourne's Docklands precinct on the edge of the CBD.
Well-Being Australia Theologian notes that it is not only the turf at Etihad that gets lots of care, it is also the patrons. Etihad Stadium is one of the first stadiums in the world that has venue chaplains. For example, Etihad Stadium hosted the Sensation New Years Eve Dance Party. Over 20 000 young ravers flocked to the venue. Red Frogs Youth Ministries provided a team of 70 chaplains who provided everything from their regular Allen's Red Frog lollies, to water, to pastoral care for people in distress. Their presence received praise from the party organizers, the Police and Ambulance Victoria. The Red Frogs aim was to be a witness for Christ to a group of youth at risk. See http://www.redfrogs.com.au/hotelchaplaincy/