Stadium is ready to take the strain of pop superstars.
WHEN the world's biggest pop band play to thousands of their adoring fans at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium next month, the pitch will be kept in perfect condition - thanks to a new cover.
The top-of-the-range Terraplas system - which is so strong it can take the equivalent weight of a 758-tonne armoured fighting vehicle on every square metre - will literally support One Direction's Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Louis Tomlinson and Liam Payne, their impressive stage rig and 100,000 dancing fans over two nights, while keeping the hallowed turf underneath in pristine condition.
It will be further put to the test less than a week later, when 600 1st Battalion, The Royal Welsh march into the venue to receive their new colours from the Queen.
It is the first-ever covering for the PS3.1m hybrid artificial and real-grass pitch, with the 8,678 plastic tiles being installed in just over 24 hours.
The new flooring, which covers 10,500 sq m, replaces the problematic turf pallet system, which took up to a week to remove.
The new high-density Terratrak Plus tiles are also translucent, allowing light to pass through and enabling the grass to continue growing for up to four days.
If the pitch is covered for longer periods, new grass will be sown to ensure perfect conditions are maintained.
Stadium manager Mark Williams said the modern system will "revolutionise" the transition between pitch and non-pitch events.
"The new system opens up the opportunity to deliver non-pitch events at any time of the year while also preserving the conditions of the pitch below, and ensures that the Millennium Stadium can continue to attract a diverse range of events to Wales," he said.
"For the stadium ground staff, the operational and logistical benefits are tremendous as we no longer need to remove and install over 7,000 turf pallets during a summer season. "Next month, One Direction will bring an impressive stage rig and thousands of dancing fans to test out the stadium's new floor, followed by the British Championship Speedway Grand Prix which will look very different again!
"Fast forward another few weeks and the stadium will look like a world-class rugby stadium once more as Wales prepare for Rugby World Cup 2015 with the Dove Men Tests at home against Ireland and Italy."
He added: "2015 is going to be a memorable year. I'm confident that our pitch system and Terraplas covering has given us a robust and sustainable platform so we can continue to concentrate on delivering the very best experience whatever the event."
The investment in the new pitch covering was partially funded by the Welsh Government in readiness for Rugby World Cup 2015, which includes two of Wales' pool matches and two quarter-finals in Cardiff.
Stadium manager Mark Williams, right, and head groundsman Lee Evans fix the final piece of the new state-of-the-art Millennium Stadium pitch |cover, ready for the upcoming concert by One Direction, inset PICTURES: HUW EVANS, ALASDAIR MACLEOD