MJ Abbott

Drainage to natural turf training pitches

Ipswich Town Football Club, Rushmere Training Ground


First team training ground

Located in Rushmere St Andrew near Ipswich, the club were looking to relocate first team training to a new part of the facility. The existing surfaces were natural turf pitches, but with no drainage and limited irrigation.

MJ Abbott successfully tendered the external sports works project designed by PSD (Professional Sportsturf Design), and work on the pitches started in summer 2022.

Project challenges

Many undulations

The existing site had many undulations. With budgetary constraints, the surfaces had to be re-levelled within the existing topsoil depth, whilst maintaining at least 150mm depth on completion. MJ Abbott worked with the consultants to develop a re-grade design which suited maintained topsoil depths whilst vastly improving surface levels.

The pitches had to extend into an overgrown area which contained an old maintenance shed. The shed had to be demolished following sensitive removal and disposal of its asbestos cement roof sheets.

Our approach

Drainage installation following creation of suitable outfall

The existing site had no drainage outfall. Following investigation of the underlying strata, a large stone filled soakaway trench was constructed, complete with carrier pipework and monitoring points. Then deep drainage had to be installed prior to installing any pitch drainage, and this was the key to the success of the project.

The general scope of works over 3 No pitches included the following:

  • Removal of vegetation and carry out minor regrade of surface levels to improve play
  • Construction of deep carrier drain soakaway system
  • Installation of primary mains and lateral drainage
  • Installation of secondary sand slits installed perpendicular to lateral pipework
  • Installation and light amelioration of sand carpet
  • Installation of new fully automatic irrigation system comprising: New water storage tank and pump station; installation of mains irrigation pipework; valve-in-head and block sprinkler system over 3 No pitches; new control system
  • Seeding pitches and landscaping around pitches.

Following successful completion of works and handover from seed, the client under the expert leadership of head groundsman Ben Connell, 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.


Promotion to the EFL Championship

The upgraded training pitches made a positive contribution to Ipswich Town’s excellent performance in the EFL League One season 2022/23, achieving automatic promotion.

The club continue to use the pitches all year round following promotion to the EFL Championship in 2023.