Ever since the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium commissioned its high-tech underground grass grow system, the spectators haven been able to focus on the biggest drawcard of the venue: the players of Real Madrid FC showing their marvelous skills and taking on their opponents. Worrying about, or even bemoaning the state of the turf, has become history.
Like many other mega sports venues, the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium is not conducive to a natural turf surface. The high stands that completely encircle the field disrupt the airflow to the turf and deprive it of the much-needed sunlight. Technology can provide a solution, but only smart and well-researched technology can make a difference. Where bringing in large fans can supplement oxygen and displace heat, replicating the sun takes more than placing a lighting rig over the field. This becomes really important when the grass is kept in a greenhouse at times when the stadium bowl is used for other events, or for events that run over multiple days.
Multipurpose (Sports) Temple
The Santiago Bernabeu Stadium is owned by Real Madrid FC. To maintain and even improve its position as one the world’s wealthiest clubs, the club recently had the outdated football-specific stadium converted into a modern, multipurpose events temple. All facilities were upgraded and a retractable roof was added. The main aim of all the works was to increase spectator comfort as well as capacity. Both the architect and the event planners tasked with maximising the use of the venue were given a freehand. Neither had to worry about the prerogatives for a healthy turf or the protection of the surface. In fact, both had to ensure that the venue could and would be enjoyed as often as possible, even if this included hosting non-sporting events. A 30-metre-deep greenhouse underneath the pitch has been fitted with an array of high-tech technology to provide the turf with all the necessities to remain perfect. The technology is connected to “the internet of grass”.
Pivotal Pitch-Perfect Light
The key technology inside the underground greenhouse is the RHENAC Sports CLS LED grass grow lights. This technology distinguishes itself, as it can exactly replicate the Complete Light Spectrum (CLS). The supplementing of light is a very delicate process and was carefully studied by its parent company RHENAC GreenTec AG from Hennef, Germany, before they decided to also venture into grass grow technology.
Together with the Bio Centre of the Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich, RHENAC GreenTec AG studied the interaction between grass and light for over 10 years. From this study, it was established how light plays a role in the germination of grass seeds, the building of biomass, the root growth as well as the increase in sward density. RHENAC GreenTec AG was the first to do such a study and remains the only one with thorough understanding of these interactions. Through its brand RHENAC Sports LED, RHENAC GreenTec AG successfully managed to translate this knowledge and understanding into technology that produces the required light and light intensity.
A Light Show That Serves Grass
RHENAC GreenTec AG established that grass requires the Complete Light Spectrum to produce and maintain a healthy pitch. This also includes a certain dose of ultraviolet and infrared. LED-technology is capable of doing so as it , contrary to HPS systems, can produce the entire range of colours, including ultraviolet and infrared. LED technology is also capable of using the same technology to produce different colours for different moments and to deliver the requested colour instantly.
A red colour will help the grass seeds to germinate and increase biomass. Blue light will increase the sward density and enhance the root growth. Blue colour light limits the growth length of the grass, and, as a side effect, the grass’s susceptibility to diseases.
Thanks to the CLS LED technology from RHENAC Sports LED, the pitch of the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium can remain inside the greenhouse for as long as needed, thereby enabling the stadium operator to also utilise the stadium bowl for hosting non-sporting events that draw mass spectators.
The Internet Of Grass
All technology inside the underground greenhouse is interconnected. The smart monitoring technology (patent-pending) RHENAC GreenTec AG supplied, establishes the exact needs for the plant by analysing the plant itself and its condition. Grass only grows when the light intensity, nutrient levels, moisture level and temperature are perfectly balanced. The monitoring unit sees to it that, where necessary, this is supplemented.
The Santiago Bernabeu pitch is divided into 50 different sections. The monitoring unit can adjust the amount of water or liquid fertilisers required and automatically adjust the lighting settings of the RHENAC Sports LED units. It can do so for all units collectively or only the unit(s) that covers a certain section that requires more attention. The box areas on each end of the field are perfect examples of sections of the field that require more intense support to remain in good condition throughout the season. Light settings can even be adjusted to supplement the grass with the light necessary to remain healthy but that doesn’t stimulate the growth in length. In doing so, the RHENAC Sports LED units also contribute to the bottom line as this will reduce the need for other equipment or activities. Reducing the need for trimming the surface also prevents the grass plant from getting damaged, and, as such, falling prey to fungi and diseases.
Better Bottom Line
The perfectly balanced supplementation of water or nutrients that is enabled by the RHENAC GreenTec AG monitoring unit as well as the reduced need for energy consumption to add or extract heat, power the robotic mowers or provide light that, in fact, is not necessary, reduces the maintenance costs for the field. It also reduces the environmental footprint of the venue. On the other hand, it allows the teams of the club to compete at the highest levels.
While Real Madrid FC is best known for its male football teams that historically have and continue to dominate the leagues, the club also has an ambitious women’s team. Furthermore, Real Madrid also has a basketball club that competes in the highest Spanish and European basketball leagues.
Last but not least, the easy access, surrounding hotels and convenient location within the city offer the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium ample opportunity to host other events like shows and concerts.
The refurbishment of the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium provided the club with the foundation for a healthy financial future for the multi-million euro events temple. The investment in the CLS-technology of RHENAC Sports LED ensured that it will always have a perfect pitch.
Hosting Mega Sports Events Anywhere
At the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid, RHENAC GreenTec AG shows, through its RHENAC Sports LED product, that it has become possible to always have a good healthy turf irrespective of the turf being in an outdoor venue of fully enclosed environment. Neither the large dome structures that will host the 2026 FIFA World Cup in North America nor the hot conditions in the Middle East or wet conditions in the Far East that are all topping the shortlists for hosting major football tournaments beyond 2026, should have an effect on the quality of the turf when they will use the RHENAC Sports LED CLS technology.
The ability to replicate sun-light, as well as develop the Internet of grass, enables the RHENAC Sports LED products to always produce the required grass, even within the limited timespan venue operators have to produce a surface.
Real Madrid FC has an illustrious history as a football club. Over the years, the club has become one of the wealthiest clubs in the world and a major brand.
Their refurbishment of the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, but, more importantly, investment in RHENAC Sports LED, will guarantee an always healthy pitch as this technology will help better in responding to what it is that the grass needs and to optimise the use of other equipment. More importantly, it will help the venue to become a multipurpose temple and the club to grow to a mega brand.