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Performance Assessment of Sports Surfaces (PASS)

Performance Assessment of Sports Surfaces (PASS)

18 May 2014


PASS provides a system and series of tools for assessing sports field performance. It offers all councils the potential to benchmark the performance of their fields, plan usage and upgrades, and generally get the best from their ongoing investment.

Background and partners

PASS complements the Sports field demand model and toolkit, which helps local authorities to assess the capacity and usage of their sports fields. The PASS system and toolkit has been developed by, and is a product of, the New Zealand Sports Turf Institute (NZSTI), which is New Zealand's leading sports turf consultancy group. They are seen by Sport New Zealand as the country's standard-setting body for turf maintenance and management.

The initiative

To ensure robust, consistent and timely data, PASS follows a defined six-step process. Depending on a council's needs, a number of optional elements can also be included in the PASS system. Here's an outline of how it works:

  • Step 1 - The sports field manager identifies the need for PASS. The need could be identified from: knowledge of high demand putting fields under strain; fields having a known history of poor performance; ground closures; low and/or high usage of fields demanding rationalisation or upgrades.
  • Step 2 - PASS self-evaluation analysis. NZSTI forwards an analysis form. Answers can be completed online or on paper. Questions are designed to help tailoring of the PASS assessment to the needs of the individual sports field. When the analysis has been returned, staff from NZSTI meet with the council to establish key requirements.
  • Step 3 - Council questionnaire. Following the meeting, a questionnaire is sent out. Again, answers can be completed online or on paper. The first part relates to all the council's fields, confirming things like contact details and number of parks/fields. The second part relates to specific fields, confirming field construction, dimensions, maintenance practices and usage.
  • Step 4 - Field performance assessments. An expert assessment of identified fields is undertaken by NZSTI-certified personnel. The tests are taken at specific field locations, depending on the sport played, with a focus on areas of maximum stress. Aspects which are assessed include: soil profiles, texture, structure, moisture content and contamination; and percentage of ground cover, turf species identification and weed contamination, earthworm surface casting, surface hardness, field evenness and slope. Additional tests can include water infiltration, surface traction and earthworm numbers. All data is entered into the PASS database.
  • Step 5 - Field agronomic assessment. An assessment of the fields is undertaken by a qualified agronomist, normally at the same time as Step 4. This provides expert advice on which management practices can be changed to optimise field performance, taking into account the site, desired level of performance and/or usage.
  • Step 6 - Information analysis and development of options. The performance assessment is analysed against recommended performance standards for sports fields. NZSTI provides a comprehensive report, recommended changes to field management and options for upgrading, along with a cost-benefit analysis for all recommendations. NZSTI has also developed a series of decision trees to clarify upgrade options for key field management issues, including poor winter and summer performance, and increased winter and summer demand.

Councils buying into the PASS system have secure online access to data for their own sports fields, as well as averaged nationwide data. "The intention is that councils will be able to update and monitor their own data", explains Andrew.


PASS can help councils to:

  • identify the current state of a field and whether a ground closure should take place
  • track and forecast the usage each field can withstand through a season - the environment, field type and other variables make a huge difference
  • measure performance of contracted grounds maintenance staff
  • call on a reliable asset management tool to plot renovation programmes
  • plan upgrade options - NZSTI can advise on and manage upgrade projects.

Contacts and links

To know more about PASS, please email Andrew Mitchell on or call 06 356 8090.

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