Overcoming difficult conditions to deliver at the Ricoh Arena

After encountering issues with their existing hybrid pitch, Wasps Rugby turned to White Horse Contractors’ in-house experts to provide a solution. The team were able to produce a unique design and build specification for a new hybrid pitch that would overcome the challenges of the fully enclosed stadium.

Key achievements

  • Hybrid turf rugby pitch construction

  • Bespoke design to overcome unique agronomic issues

  • Raised pitch level to address existing shallow depth

  • Completed in just 4 weeks in time for the 2019/20 Premiership Season

The Challenge

Twice European and five-time English rugby Champions Wasps Rugby know a thing or two about what it takes to succeed. Founded in 1867, the club are one of the oldest established clubs in the Premiership and have played at this highest level of Rugby Union since 1997.

Following the club’s move to Coventry’s Ricoh Arena, a temporary natural turf pitch was trialled, but as the only fully enclosed stadium in British rugby, the key elements necessary for the growth and health of a natural turf pitch (sun, rain and wind) were not forthcoming.

The club eventually opted for the construction of a hybrid turf pitch, identified as the best option to deliver natural grass performance with the support and aesthetics of artificial grass reinforcement. However, the pitch struggled to withstand the needs of the top tier rugby club and off-season events held at the vast stadium.

Knowing that a hybrid turf pitch would best fit the conditions of a fully enclosed stadium, the club needed a way to improve the performance of their pitch ahead of the 2019/20 season, that would also deliver on the stadium’s dual-purpose requirements.

The Solution

With over 60 years’ expertise in natural turf sports construction, the team at White Horse Contractors began a programme of research and analysis to determine the best solution for Wasps.

Our technical director, Dr James Walsh, identified a key issue with the shallow depth of the existing heating and irrigation pipework systems under the pitch. He conceived a detailed design solution and construction plan to overcome this technical challenge:

“To address this, we raised the pitch level, which improved aeration and drainage in the upper rootzone, and utilised a microporous mineral to improve water and nutrient retention”

Dr James Welsh, Technical Director, White Horse Contractors

Impressed by White Horse Contractor’s proposal for the new hybrid turf pitch, Wasps Rugby commissioned the team within a matter of weeks. The hybrid pitch was constructed using the same hybrid turf system proven to support heavy usage at the highest tiers of elite sport, without compromising performance. The same surface has been successfully utilised at Gloucester Rugby Club, Manchester City’s training ground and Real Madrid’s training ground.


The contracted was signed August 1st, 2019 with work commencing shortly afterwards and the new hybrid turf pitch delivered within just 4 weeks. Handed over on 3rd September 2019, three weeks prior to Wasps first game of the season, the new pitch received fantastic feedback from players.

The technical work carried out to raise the level of the pitch not only formed the groundwork of a more consistent, resilient and higher quality playing surface – but enabled the pitch to bed in faster, ensuring that the new hybrid pitch was delivered to tight timescales ahead of the 2019/20 Premiership.

The new pitch design and construction overcame the agronomic challenges presented by the arena and existing pitch base, producing a hybrid turf pitch suitable for elite sport while hardy enough to withstand a packed events schedule during the off-season.

Despite the disruption to the season caused by the Coronavirus pandemic, Wasps Rugby enjoyed a successful year on their new hybrid playing surface, narrowly missing out on the Premiership title to Exeter, who edged Wasps by just 3 points in the Gallagher Premiership final on Saturday 24th October 2020.

Already off to a flying start winning the first game of their 2020/21 season at home against Bristol Bears, we look forward to another year of success for the Wasps in 2021!

For more information call 01865 736272 or email whc@whitehorsecontractors.co.uk