The dizzy heights of cleaning Kia Oval

19th of September 2019
The dizzy heights of cleaning Kia Oval
The dizzy heights of cleaning Kia Oval

The Oval is one of the UK’s iconic cricket grounds, in fact it was one of the 11 selected to host Cricket World Cup games over the summer. Before that however, a thorough makeover was needed on one of the stands and Stadium Support Services was brought in to carry out the work.

Based in south London, the Oval (known for sponsorship reasons as the Kia Oval) is an international cricket ground that has been home to Surrey County Cricket Club since it was opened in 1845. With its 24,500 capacity the ground played host to five matches during this summer’s Cricket World Cup.

The roof of the OCS grandstand, however, was in urgent need of some attention before the ground could welcome the world’s cricket fans. Built 15 years ago, it had never been properly cleaned. So Stadium Support Services was appointed to carry out a thorough deep clean and maintenance survey. “The plan was to use an articulated boom sited on the pitch to gain access,” explains commercial director Joseph Noble.

“However it transpired that all the plant needed would have to go onto the pitch in order to reach the roof, and the head groundsman insisted heavy machinery could not be stationed on the grass for obvious reasons. Tracks would have to be laid down to transport the machines, and they would have to be removed each night. The risk of damage to the precious turf was unacceptable.”

Plant not possible

Noble continues: “Access from the roof was not possible with mechanical plant either so we changed strategy and brought in our rope access team to carry out 50 per cent of the clean with the rest being accessed from scaffold we erected.”

The team of eight abseilers is IRATA (Industrial Rope Access Trade Association) qualified and they can be suspended for hours at a time. For the cleaning of the grandstand, each took with them a bucket of warm water and microfibre cloths. That water was regularly being changed by sending the bucket up and down to the team member on the ground. “They used the first cloth to remove the deep grime, then a clean one to wipe to a smear-free finish,” says Noble.

Qualified abseilers

Up to 300 cloths a day were used by the cleaning team – they also cleaned using the company’s secret chemical formulation – which were then laundered and re-used. Each operative cleaned between two and three of the roof’s cylindrical columns per day. An anti-static coating was applied at the end of the clean in order to detract new dirt from the surfaces.

The areas cleaned were all steelwork; roofing sheets were cleaned with a reach and wash system from above to increase natural light coming in; the north side of the stadium’s outer rim was covered in moss; birds’ nests and faulty bird spikes were removed. To reduce water ingress, a steam cleaner was used.

There were advantages to not having machinery on site, as the team was not dependant on weather conditions in order to start working every day. And they had to be flexible around various functions (the Kia Oval also has a thriving hospitality business) and sporting activities – sometimes having to suspend work at short notice.

It was only once all the years of dirt had been removed that the true condition of the roof’s beams and structures was revealed, and it wasn’t good. “At that stage we were asked to remove all the rust that had accumulated over the years and to treat those areas in order to ensure the structure’s longevity.”

After heavy abrasion with grinders to strip back the rust, a primer was applied to the exposed steel surface. Then it was time to apply two coats of paint that had been sourced to match the original specification.

Joseph Noble adds: “The good news is that there is now a plan in place to have regular cleaning and maintenance carried out according to a schedule.”

So with over 1,000 hours of cleaning, prep work and painting the renovation works were completed and the grandstand handed back in time for the Cricket World Cup. Some other interesting statistics around the job:

• One kilometre of rope needed for access
• 8,000 bird spikes removed
• 25 metres working at height
• 2.4 kilometres of steelwork cleaned and painted
• 5,000 bolts primed and painted
• 5,000 square metres of roof reached and washed.

Dermot Reid is responsible for aspects of cleaning, maintenance, waste management, staffing and security for games. He is total facilities manager for OCS Group at Kia Oval. He explains: “The stand had never been cleaned in its 15 years, it just was never a priority. We awarded the contract to Stadium Support Services because Scott Hudson (operations director) and Joseph Noble are so knowledgeable – with their drive and enthusiasm they were streets ahead of other companies who tendered for the job.”

Delighted client

Reid is delighted with the job done by the company. “The team worked well with everyone at the Oval, including the groundsmen. They were very understanding about having to stop work at short notice for tours, etc – and they were asked to stop a few times. But they never complained.”

Reid also had no hesitation in giving the job of painting the stand to the same  team. “I was really impressed with their ‘can-do’ attitude – they just got on with it,” he says. He also valued Stadium Support’s knowledge of health and safety, which is vital where rope access work is concerned.

Knowledge and expertise

In fact Reid cannot praise his contractor highly enough. “Stadium Support is one of the best companies I have worked with - they genuinely want to offer a good service to their clients. They solve problems quickly and without fuss, and they display such high levels of professionalism and experience.

“Everyone who works for them is really positive, clearly very happy to be doing the job and totally engaged.”

The good news for Stadium Support Services is that it is winning more and more specialist work like this. “There is always a way of getting something clean,” says Noble. “It does however, require thorough knowledge of access techniques which many conventional contract cleaning companies do not have.

“We feel we solve problems by making a plan and implementing a systematic process.”


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