Tue 31 July 2007

A Park fit for a Prince

"Tree hugging" seems to be a national, if not global obsession at the moment. Glance a look at the front page of 'The Independent' newspaper in the mornings and you'll be reminded about the end of the world awaiting us all.

Every other word nowadays is 'recycle', which is all well and good but you can't really apply eco-friendliness to absolutely everything, such as the world of football, can you? Can you? Well, apparently you can, and to prove it an 'eco-friendly' stadium has been built in the obvious of place... Dartford, Kent.


Yes, Dartford Football Club opened their new stadium over six months ago and the reaction has been astounding. The non-league club left there previous stadium behind in 1992 and have been ground-sharing with other local clubs until November 2006. That's when the new Princes Park Stadium hosted its first match.

Due to Dartford FC being a non-league club with relatively small attendances - the stadium has a capacity for 4,100 supporters - it was possible to build the stadium using sustainable materials. The wonderfully eye-catching curved roof is made with timber beams and has a turf roof. Good luck to the groundsman riding his lawnmower when cutting that.

The attention to detail for what the stadium needs to be self-sustaining is quiet amazing. The first thing that springs to mind is the pitch and to keep the grass lush and green the architect added two lakes nearby to store rainwater for watering the grass. The rain water is collected from various local resources, including the stadium and clubhouse roofs and piped to the lakes. The lakes will only be used to water the grass in periods of drought however, meaning the newly-created lakes will be a home for wildlife.
It also has solar panels on the roof to provide hot water, the roof and floodlights are below the level of the surrounding terrain in order to reduce noise and floodlight pollution for local community, and the car park is usable all week for people wanting to hop onto the fast track bus service to the nearby Bluewater shopping centre.

Not only is the stadium amazing in terms of its 'greenness', it's also a rather impressive piece of architecture, and when you think that this has all happened at a non-league club with an average match attendance of just over 1,000 it makes the achievement that little bit more special and remarkable.

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