Aiming for Co-Existence of Competitiveness and Profitability Current Status of ‘Turf Project’
Evergreen sports turf is required as a stipulation of participation in the J.League. However, the condition of natural turf is hugely affected by the weather, especially the amount of sunlight it is exposed to, and many stadiums struggle with this issue. Alongside this, the demand for sports turf outside of the stadium is also growing year on year. In order to address these issues for the club and stadium Kashima Antlers embarked upon the aim of establishing a sports turf business in 2011 to improve both competitiveness on the pitch and profits off it.

The required evergreen turf for competition is of a high quality. This is known as ‘sports turf’ and it is placed under harsher demands than that which is used in parks or for horticulture, not only in terms of the toughness of the grass on display, quality of drainage, and ability to avoid becoming worn out, but an all-over quality is demanded of the roadbed as well. Similarly to many other venues Kashima Stadium has had problems with regards to the playing surface. The key factor behind this is the lack of sunlight and the changes in climate brought about by heat-waves. The duration of sunlight that is indispensable for turf’s growth may be insufficient depending on the weather, or heat-waves may cause damage to the turf. In addition, the steep stand creates shade, leaving an area with a chronic shortage of sunlight. In order for the players to play high level games throughout the year, care and preservation of sports turf must come first, which could lead to a lower operation rate.

Until now in Japan the type of grass used in order to adhere to the evergreen demand was a cool season variety. However, this type requires time to grow from germination and struggles in the heat of the summer, soon becoming damaged. In order to improve upon the cool season variety Antlers started the ‘Turf Project’ in 2011, working with turf management company IGM to study maintenance methods that blend rich experience and the latest technology together.

In 2013, Antlers rolled up the turf cured on the field and then carried out a full-scale replacement using the ‘Big Roll’ method, which spreads the rolled-up turf in the stadium. This made it possible to reduce the replacement time to 21 days, as opposed to the traditional period of several months. Furthermore, as part of the day-to-day management of Kashima Soccer Stadium, the innovative ‘BRIGHTURF’ technology devised by Sony Business Solutions was also introduced in order to bring about the partial restoration of the grass damaged by lack of sunlight.

Antlers succeeded in developing a new variety of turf by selecting an adaptable kind of pitch suitable for the stadium, and conducted experiments in an environment similar to that of the stadium. Previously Kashima Soccer Stadium had used a mixed variety of cool season type Kentucky Blue Grass, Texas Blue Grass, and Tall Fescue, but the new breed developed is a warm season type. After selection this new breed underwent a verification test, and while it of course excelled at dealing with warm weather it also didn’t compare unfavourably to the previously used cool season variety when it came to coping in shady or even cool conditions. In addition, in order to maintain it as evergreen a new warmth-retaining sheet system will be used, making it possible to have evergreen turf all year round. The aim is for this initiative to turn Kashima Stadium into a showcase of innovation in the sporting world, and it has huge potential to erase the issues with pitch management at stadiums and grounds all around Japan. First of all, in order to maintain competitiveness and ensure profitability we will promote the ‘Turf Project’ business further, with all aspects original – from the new variety of turf, ‘Big Roll’ method, heat-maintenance sheet system, and breed selection, all the way up to maintenance control. Issues such as securing vast fields for turf development still remain, but the club is determined to advance towards the future in this project.
Project history
Six years of development and implementation to arrive at actual commercialisation
2011 Participated in ‘BRIGHTURF’ research and development
2013 Re-laid the turf at Kashima Soccer Stadium using the ‘Big Roll’ method
2015 Successful implementation of ‘BRIGHTURF’
2016 Installation of ‘BRIGHTURF’ at Kashima Soccer Stadium
2018 New breed adoption, announcement of ‘Turf Project’ business