White Horse Contractors provides top of the league service for Chelsea FC

After its grand opening and first official game, the final match pitches at Chelsea Football Club's Cobham training ground are now open. Built by White Horse Contractors, one of the UK's leading sports turf construction contractors, the opening of these pitches represents the culmination of phase four of the Cobham training ground project, a multi-million pound development aimed at providing the most comprehensive facility of its kind in the world.

White Horse Contractors' involvement in phase four of the Cobham project originally comprised a 1m contract to build a full size natural turf match pitch to the exact dimensions of CFC's Stamford Bridge pitch, an adjacent goalkeeper training area, two natural turf training pitches and a third generation (3G) artificial grass pitch. These facilities comprise elements of Chelsea FC's youth training academy, where the players that reached last season's FA Youth Cup final train and play home games. The youth academy also plays host to many of Chelsea FC's community initiatives.

For the main match pitch, the topsoil was stripped, the subsoil re-levelled and a depth of topsoil replaced. An extensive pipe drainage system was installed and rootzone mix was laid as the final layer. For the adjacent goalkeeping area, the same construction was reinforced with Fibresand. The two training pitches were constructed on the site of former college sports fields but required level improvements, so the new pitches were constructed using cut and fill, with sand incorporated into the topsoil to improve its quality. A full pipe drainage system was also installed.

However, during the course of the project, it became clear that White Horse Contractors' expertise in water engineering and sustainable construction practices would prove invaluable in a range of applications across the state of the art Surrey site.

In order to maintain appropriate levels of irrigation for the natural turf, CFC planned to build an irrigation reservoir on site, to cut the costs of water use. As is standard industry practise, the original plans called for the excavated soil to be transported off-site for disposal. White Horse Contractors recognised an opportunity to improve additional facilities whilst simultaneously achieving cost savings for its client, and so proposed re-using the soil on-site.

This allowed White Horse Contractors to raise the level of some further natural turf pitches, installing a new drainage scheme, whilst saving the 3,000 lorry movements, which would have been required to remove the arisings from the site. The recycled sub-soil also allowed White Horse Contractors to build a running hill and additionally a basketball court was constructed to be used for player rehabilitation.

The first matches played on the match pitch took place over the August 2008 bank holiday, almost exactly a year after the pitch construction commenced. Typically, professional standard natural turf pitches may take up to two years to establish and so would not have been ready until the beginning of next season. These time-savings were due to White Horse Contractors' in-house capability to deliver, through utilising its market leading fleet of specialised plant coupled with highly experienced site foreman and team, working in partnership with the extensive resources and expertise of the Chelsea FC ground staff.

Alan Shaw, Company Secretary for Chelsea FC, commented: "White Horse worked really well with our own staff and met all the deadlines imposed by the demands of our footballing schedule. The end product is something of which we can all be proud, thanks in no small measure to White Horse's client care, ethics and especially its staff."

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