Bristol Rovers Invests in Dennis

The turnstiles of a typical English football stadium may go quiet through the summer months but it is not a time when the groundsman teams can afford to take a rest. For them, the absence of fans heralds a hectic few weeks when the pitch needs to undergo a rapid transformation in order to be turned around ready to start a new season.

At Bristol Rovers’ Memorial Stadium through the summer that involved completely stripping the surface, removing all the vegetation, adjusting the levels, installing a new sand banding system to improve drainage and re-seeding. All had to be achieved in a matter of about six weeks. Only when Deputy Head Groundsman Ben Ford rolled out the two Dennis PRO 34R mowers did you get the sense that the pitch really would be ready for the first home game against Barnsley.

Meanwhile, Head Groundsman Daryle Sullivan and his support team were going through a not dissimilar process at the club’s training ground some five miles away on the edge of the city at Almondsbury. There, the club has in recent times invested in two new fibre-sand pitches that echo the surface at the stadium. And when the job was done it was three more Dennis PRO 34Rs that applied the finishing touches.

The club acquired its Dennis mowers from Lister Wilder’s local depot, which nowadays operates from Keynsham and has a long relationship with the club which finished the 2022-23 season in 17th place in League Division 1. As ever, in the coming season the Pirates will aim to do better – and it’s much the same with the pitch at the Memorial Stadium which won the League 1 pitch of the season award in 2018-19 but has had its drainage challenges over recent times. 

Worse still were disease problems, which saw brown patches take over the pitch after last year’s heatwave. “It stopped the plant taking up moisture, so for the first three or four games of the season we had patches all over the place,” says Ben. “This time we have adjusted the grass seed cultivar to a more disease resistant variety and that, together with the new sand banding, should give us the quality of surface we are looking for.”

In a sport in which only the best is good enough, Dennis is a reassuring presence for Daryl and Ben at both the stadium and training ground.  

“I used to work at Gloucestershire County Cricket Club where we had another leading mower brand which did a fair job, but the Dennis was a total revelation when I came here,” says Ben. “Beyond all else, its quality of cut is truly fantastic as is the striped-up finished presentation. That final look is very important to any football club.”

He adds: “It’s a brilliant piece of kit on all fronts and we never have any dramas of either the mechanical or health and safety fronts. The lads can all operate them without problems and can change the height of cut very easily if I am not around.”

It takes around two to two-and-a-half hours to cut the stadium pitch in one direction or four hours to double-cut in both directions. The team typically cut five days a week.

Key features of the PRO 34R include:

  • A powerful vacuum flow to collect debris quickly and efficiently
  • Five forward and one reverse gears for speed of operation
  • A 90-litre grass box
  • Fully adjustable angle of deck for changing conditions
  • An easy to use height of cut gauge
  • Adjustable handlebars for operator comfort
  • Interchangeable cassette options – in Rovers’ case a verticutter and brush

Ben welcomes the support he gets from Lister Wilder’s Area Sales Manger Ian Davies who he describes as a ‘God send who provides invaluable advice’. On the mechanical front, he also speaks highly of engineer Dell {surname please} who is always welcome at the ground despite his support for Bristol City!