Tony Patterson Sports Grounds was named as a finalist at this year’s SAPCA Awards, thanks to a large-scale project it completed at the University of Limerick in Ireland.
The development saw a 28-acre area being transformed into a sports hub as part of a £4m investment.
The University of Limerick has been an institution of proud sporting heritage since it was founded 30 years ago. Nurturing sporting talent is an intrinsic part of the university’s foundations and the facilities available to students and athletes play a huge role in that. The University of Limerick Sport Arena, for example, is home to Ireland’s first 50m swimming pool and the National Strength and Conditioning Centre.
To further improve the facilities, the University set out to create a number of elite-standard playing pitches on campus. The university selected Tony Patterson Sports Grounds for the project, which delivered a total of four synthetic and two natural grass pitches – alongside other facilities – on a 28-acre site.
The £4m project was uniquely funded by the students, following a referendum vote to pay a levy to finance the project.
In total, Tony Patterson Sports Grounds designed and built 60,000sq m of elite-level synthetic and natural playing surfaces with 5,500sq m of new roads and car parking space. The project also included a bespoke pavilion building.
The Maguires Pitches development included an area capable of being sectioned into four synthetic 3G football pitches, or two full-size 3G GAA pitches. In addition, the development saw the creation of one natural GAA pitch, a natural grass multi-sport training area and three hurling walls.
Due to the project environment being a thriving and vibrant campus, the company maintained access for students and the public to live and work undisturbed.
To encourage a healthy and active lifestyle amongst students and other users of the campus, a new running trail – affectionately known as ‘The Golden Mile’ – was also created. This integration of professional athletics and everyday wellbeing are a key indicator of the university’s sporting ethos and the project’s ongoing.
The 38-week construction project was delivered on time and on budget.
Focus On Sustainability
As the site included designated protection areas, being environmentally sensitive was at the core of every stage of the development. Sustainable measures included installing rainwater harvesting and attenuation systems to recycle water for irrigation across the natural grass surfaces, as well as utilising materials which reduce life cycle costing and therefore waste.
Elsewhere, bespoke rootzones have reduced the requirement for watering and fertilising to a minimum and have helped to promote sustainability. The emphasis on sustainability extended beyond the sports facilities too. As well as the natural turf pitch having a dense, strong, and resilient sward, the development included the creation of a wildflower meadow. Specific trees and shrubs were planted to promote sustainability and tree protection works were also carried out on existing landscapes.
The project also included a number of technologically-advanced solutions. LED floodlighting and LED amenity lighting were chosen to illuminate the site, with bespoke software written specifically for the smart-integrated control booking system.
New high voltage electrical upgrade works were also carried out across the facility and throughout the university campus.
Described by the University of Limerick’s Director of Sport and Recreation, Dave Mahedy, as being “developed from practically a swamp”, the creation of the huge complex presented a number of challenges – all which the team at Tony Patterson was able to tackle successfully.
The work was carried out during one of the wettest autumn-winter periods on record, which caused a high water table. As a result, ground stabilisation and specialist LGP machines were utilised to achieve the project on time, despite the adverse weather conditions.
There was also an unrecorded, large-diameter trunk water main that ran through the site – which the Tony Patterson team diverted into a safe-zone. This adaptability was integral to the success of the project, with potential time delays avoided with traffic management systems being implemented to coordinate work access and deliveries.
The sheer size and scale of the project was logistically difficult too – the project required over 4,000 lorry deliveries.
The Maguires Pitches project – part of the university’s new €7m sports campus – has been well received by students, visiting athletes and university staff, as well as the general public, which has access to the facilities.
“Every night of the week somebody is on the pitches,” says Dave Mahedy, Director of Sport and Recreation. “It’s a great addition to the community, to the college and to Limerick.”
Gerard Cunningham, the university’s Sports Facilities Manager, adds: “The facilities are a massive contributor to the success we’re having.
“All our pitches cater specifically to different sports, which is a huge advantage to our students.”
According to Gerry O’Brien, the university’s Deputy President, the facility strengthens the institution’s reputation as a leader in sports.
“Our state-of-the-art sports campus has been enhanced further with the completion of this project and reaffirms our status as Ireland’s sporting campus and one of the best in Europe,” he says.
“We acknowledge the role of sport in shaping our students and the students are at the centre of this institution’s focus and their campus experience, both inside and outside of the lecture halls, is at the core of our commitment to them at UL.”
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