MJ Abbott

Construction of new training ground

Bristol City Football Club, Robins High Performance Centre


A brand new training ground for the Robins

Having previously trained at the adjacent QEH Sports Ground, Bristol City Football Club began construction of their new Robins High Performance Centre in 2020.

Located near Failand in south west Bristol, the site includes new club buildings, 3 no external full size hybrid pitches, 1 no fibre-sand pitch and 2 no fibre-sand carpet-based grids.

Local Bristol company, Beard Construction, secured the club buildings contract.

MJ Abbott successfully tendered the external sports works project designed by PSD (Professional Sportsturf Design).

Despite the COVID-19 virus circulating the UK in early 2020, the club remained committed to keeping the project on track. Work started on the pitches in June 2020.

Project challenges

A compact site with difficult ground conditions

The building contractor utilised all excavated spoil from the clubhouse building and car park to form the pitch plateaus. The indigenous material in Failand is clay and rock.

Contracts Director, Nathan George, comments: “The plateau left by the earthworks contractors featured solid rock at surface level. We utilised a stone crusher to produce a material that could be trimmed by our GPS guided dozer, allowing us to form the pitch cambers and grades to design tolerances. Accurate levels on the sub-base are so key to pitch construction, as it is the foundation for the layers of aggregates that are built up to form the pitch profile.”

The site itself is very compact with every corner being used by the club for either buildings, car parking or pitches. There is only one access point, which was shared during construction with the building contractor.

Nathan continues: “The pitch construction required 26,000 tonnes of aggregates to be imported, which logistically is problem enough on a tight programme, however the main challenge was the lack of a dedicated compound area. We sacrificed one of the pitches as a compound area, which was easy until the point of building the last pitch. It’s testament to the efficiency of our supply chain and effort by the site staff that the last pitch got completed to specification and on time.”

Our approach

Detailed planning and tight project management to deal with the constraints

The sudden and sometimes unrelenting rainfall that can be experienced in this part of the world, prioritised the importance of getting as much main drainage in the ground as quickly as possible in the first few weeks of the project. This proved advantageous during construction, reducing storm water run-off and drying areas out quickly to enable work to continue.

All drainage water collected from the pitches outfalls into large attenuation chambers which eventually soak away into the underlying rocky strata.

Following formation and main drainage works, MJ Abbott completed the following scope of works:

Hybrid Pitches (SISGrass) – 3 No

  • Installation of post sockets, main and lateral pitch drainage, and pitch irrigation systems, complete with geotextile lining to the sub-base
  • Installation of 150mm depth of 2-6mm gravel raft, 200mm depth of lower sand and 100mm depth of upper rootzone
  • Installation of nutrient retentive amendments, fertilisers and seeding
  • Installation of SISGrass hybrid pitch reinforcement system
  • Installation of ducting and pitch floodlights to 1 No pitch
  • Installation of spectator and ball stop fencing
  • Landscape and shaping to pitch/building surrounds, preparation and seeding of all landscaped areas.

Fibre Pitch and Grids – 2 No

  • Installation of main and lateral pitch drainage, and pitch irrigation systems
  • Installation of 150mm depth of lower sand, secondary drainage slits, and 100mm depth of fibre reinforced upper rootzone
  • Installation of nutrient retentive amendments, fertilisers and seeding
  • Installation of ball stop fencing, pathways, landscaping to perimeters and seeding.

Following successful completion of works and handover after seeding, the client’s team under the expert leadership of Head of Grounds, Dan Sparks, grew the pitches in and maintained to achieve match conditions until first usage.

Charles Henderson of PSD made regular monitoring visits during construction and provided ongoing agronomic support during the grow-in.


A great result despite the COVID-19 pandemic

Bristol City Football Club started to utilise the facility in March 2021, with an official opening in July 2021 ahead of their first pre-season encounter against Celtic. At the official opening, owner Steve Lansdown said: “It is a great honour to officially open the Robins High Performance Centre.

“Our thanks go out to all of the contractors involved in this during a very difficult period but we saw it through and we came through on budget. Everyone has done a fantastic job.

“These facilities are to give us the groundwork to go forward as a club, to reach the top level and become a top team in the Premier League and I am delighted with the product we have here.”