Cardiff Blues and Cardiff RFC can confirm that they will go ahead with installing an artificial pitch at the Arms Park ahead of the 2013/14 season.
It is hoped that the artificial pitch will provide a more entertaining game of rugby. Blues supporters are sure to remember the last Boxing Day match against the Dragons, when heavy rainfall meant the Arms Park pitch took a battering, with the ground heavy underfoot and only one try scored in the 12-10 win.
The new surface is designed to allow rainfall to drain straight through the system and will see an end to a heavy sodden pitch which is not conducive to the style of rugby our players and fans alike want to see; even snow will not present the difficulties we had previously.
Launched in 2011, the FieldTurf Optimum fibre, which will be used at the Arms Park, is the result of innovative science, engineering and technology. It will provide a fit for purpose rugby surface, which is soft and strong with extraordinary durability and longevity for both Cardiff RFC and Cardiff Blues players, but also for those in the wider community. The Fieldturf Optimum fibre has been tested to 5 times the requirement of the IRB regulations in terms of its durability and represents the cutting edge in sports fibre technology.
Not only can supporters look forward to a faster and more entertaining game but the Blues also will aim to host a number of other events at the ground all year round. Something that is not possible currently at the Arms Park.
The safety of players is of paramount importance and with plenty of give in the pitch, because of the combined shock pad and carpet system, both teams can challenge for the ball in the air and from line outs with no more risk than playing on grass.
Cardiff Blues Chief Executive Richard Holland said,
"This is very exciting news for all Cardiff Rugby supporters and indeed Cardiff Blues and Cardiff RFC players in the region.
"The new surface will allow games to go ahead no matter the weather and hopefully enable us to play a more expansive and attractive game for supporters to enjoy.
"There is also the wider community to consider and our aim is to make the pitch available for teams in the Blues region to play and train on.
"We've put a great amount of effort into researching the different surfaces available and I have no doubt that the new artificial pitch will be a hit with players and supporters alike.
"There are many benefits of having the artificial pitch which will also be available to host a number of national events such as the National 7's tournament and potentially Women's and age grade rugby internationals.
WRU Group Chief Executive, Roger Lewis said:
"I congratulate and applaud the Cardiff Blues on this initiative.
"It is a positive step forward for rugby both in the Blues Region and in our Capital City, Cardiff.
"The WRU has received a grant application from the Blues for financial assistance, which I support.
"The focus of the WRU is based upon creating long term sustainable rugby both on and off the field, and our planning is based upon clear, thought through, strategic decisions.
"The Blues have met all of the criteria and IRB regulations, and it is with great pleasure that the WRU endorses this project"
Cardiff Blues Director of Rugby Phil Davies added,
"Having a new artificial pitch installed at the Arms Park is fantastic news."
"It will allow us to play the expansive game that we want which will hopefully be attractive to the supporters to watch."
"This wasn't always possible last season due to the playing surface and dreadful weather conditions we suffered last season."
"I know all the players are looking forward to playing on it for our friendly match against Sale Sharks."
Gavin Evans, who captained the Cardiff Blues against Saracens at Allianz Park in late January, when the first professional rugby match was played on their artificial pitch said,
"The surface up at Saracens was similar to the 3G pitch we train on at the Vale Resort but it was much better.
"The players didn't suffer many burns - no more than you would playing on grass on a sunny day.
"It was good underfoot and the players will soon get used to playing on it.
"For me it's certainly a big thumbs up and I'd rather play on a 3G pitch like the Saracens' than the type of surface we played the Dragons on during the Christmas period."
Sam Hobbs who started in the front row for the Blues against Saracens said,
"I found very little difference and thought the footing in the scrum was a lot better especially compared to scrummaging on wet surfaces.
"I was really impressed and can't remember many scrums going down.
"The tempo of the match was a lot easier because the ball wasn't covered in mud and it felt a lot cleaner. It was certainly a lot cleaner in the changing rooms after."
"I think it's great for the region that we are going ahead with the artificial pitch and I'm looking forward to playing on it next season."
The artificial carpet being installed is FieldTurf, which is one of the most established and well-known brands in the artificial turf industry. They have already developed a wide range of systems for artifical pitches and recently installed a number of new surfaces at Munster's training centre at the University of Limerick.
Manchester City, Arsenal, FC Barcelona, Real Madrid CF, Juventus Turin, Inter Milan, Ajax Amsterdam and Paris Saint-Germain are amongst their impressive list of clients who already benefit from Fieldturf pitches.
Selected as one of the IRB's preferred producers, the surface is designed to meet the most stringent requirements both of rugby and of the current International Rugby Board regulations.
Work on installing the new pitch will begin in June ahead of Cardiff Blues playing their first match on the new surface against Sale Sharks on Friday 23 August 7.30pm kick off.