The University of Limerick has been an institution of proud sporting heritage since it was founded 30 years ago. From British & Irish Lions captain Paul O’Connell to 10-time All-Ireland Senior Camogie Championship winner Anna Geary, student-athletes have gone to accomplish incredible things. Nurturing sporting talent is an intrinsic part of the University’s foundations and it's a value that we were proud to build upon. Passion is the foundation of this project, uniquely funded by the students following a referendum voting to pay a levy to fund the project. Being selected to deliver one of the largest contracts for sports surfaces in Europe with a 28-acre site and a 4 million investment, it was imperative to everyone at Tony Patterson Sports Grounds that the transformation would be nothing short of world-class.
The journey began for us to design, and build 60,000m2 of elite-level synthetic and natural playing surfaces with 5,500m2 of new roads and car parking topped off with a bespoke pavilion building. Through this, we wanted to create an integration of professional and amateur athletes alike to create a sporting ethos encouraging everyone to be active alongside their sporting heroes. Over the course of the 38-week program, the Tony Patterson team delivered elite training facilities with enhanced accessibility and sustainable resources, all on time and on budget. As a thriving and vibrant campus, we maintained access for students and the public to live and work undisturbed. The University of Limerick is now a unique epicentre for sport in Ireland, boasting four 3G soccer pitches, two full-size 3G GAA pitches, one natural GAA pitch, a natural grass multi-sport training area, and three hurling walls. Our surfaces, both natural and synthetic, excelled in all three major codes to be played - Soccer, Rugby, GAA and other sports allowing more students and international players and athletes to come and excel. The first chance to put this work to the test came on a fast-tracked schedule as accelerated natural grass growth systems were put in place to facilitate the Italian national rugby team. And the end result truly delivered and inspired, with head coach Conor O’Shea calling the new ground “one of the best surfaces we have played on.” As the site includes designated protected areas, being environmentally sensitive was at the core of every stage of the process. This included installing rainwater harvesting and attenuation systems to recycle water for irrigation across the natural grass surfaces, as well as utilising materials which reduce life cycle costing and therefore waste. Bespoke rootzones designed to reduce the requirement for watering and fertilising to a minimum again helped to promote sustainability with ‘Cradle to cradle turf’ which Tony Patterson Sports Grounds installed to reduce the overall environmental impact of the project.
This emphasis on sustainability permeates the entire sporting campus. Innovative natural growing additives were selected to create a dense, strong, and resilient sward; a wildflower meadow,specific trees and shrubs have been planted to promote sustainability; and tree protection works were carried out on existing landscapes.
However, the technological feats of this project must not be overlooked. LED Floodlighting and LED lighting illuminate the site, with bespoke software written specifically for the smart-integrated control booking system. New high voltage electrical upgrade works were also carried out across the facility and through the middle of the live University campus.
The sheer size and scale of the project was logistically difficult, the project required over 4,000 lorry deliveries. This grander and taking into consideration Limerick is one of the windiest corners of Europe, specialist structural engineering was required to deliver the 25m floodlighting poles and 15m-high catch netting.
Described by the University of Limerick’s Director of Sport & Recreation, Dave Mehedy, as being “developed from practically a swamp.” the work was carried out during one of the wettest autumn-winter periods on record. This caused a high water table. Ground stabilisation and innovative specialist LGP machines were utilised to achieve the project on time, despite the adverse weather conditions.
An unrecorded large diameter Trunk water main was running through the site which the Tony Patterson team diverted into a safe-zone. This adaptability was integral to the success of the project, with potential time delays avoided with traffic management systems being implemented to coordinate work access and deliveries.
Accessibility is not just about entry points. Just like the facilities are about more than blades of grass. They are about people. Athletes, spectators, staff and visitors should all enjoy this facility. That’s why a new pavilion building, additional car parking, main access roads and LED-floodlit spectator terracing were all designed, constructed and installed as part of the delivery.
And to encourage a healthy and active lifestyle amongst all of these groups, a new running trail affectionately known as‘The Golden Mile’ was created. This integration of professional athletics and everyday well-being are a key indicator of the university’s sporting ethos and the project’s ongoing success, as Dave Mehedy notes: “Every night of the week somebody is on the pitches. It’s a great addition to the community, to the college and to Limerick.”
Every time you train, you need to push harder than you did the day before. Your pitch should push back. Take 5 and join us for a coffee and FREE Consultation. Chat to one of our sports engineers and discover what opportunities are available for you and your team. Transform your pitch and provide your athletes with a playing surface which is always up to the test.