Goodison Park is one of the most hallowed grounds in English football, having hosted games from legendary Premier League squad Everton Football Club (F.C.) since its opening over a century ago in 1892. But the stadium has experienced ample wear and tear over its 125 year history, considering that more than 20 home matches each season are played there.
In 2015, the club’s maintenance managers were keenly aware of corrosion developing on many metal support beams for the stadium’s light structure and the steel beams under the roof, which protects many of the near-40,000 seats in Goodison Park from the notoriously rainy U.K. climate. The beams had last been coated in 1981, so management knew it was time go on the offensive. Unfortunately for them, the Premier League season stretches from August through May — longer than virtually any other major sport — and that leaves very limited time for major maintenance projects.
But the team at nearby coatings contractor EPIC Painting — located in Birkenhead, just a few miles across the River Mersey from Everton’s home in Liverpool — had a plan in mind to get the job done, even if it meant staggering the work over multiple off-seasons.
“All the work had to be done during the closed season, and there were several other maintenance jobs going on,” recalled Graham Lawrence, operations manager at EPIC Painting. “The roof sheets were being replaced, the pitch was being re-laid, and we weren’t allowed to disturb them. You only get one very small eight-week window of opportunity, so trying to work with all the other maintenance people in such a short timeframe was quite the challenge.”
So when Lawrence and his eight-man crew arrived at Goodison Park in the summer of 2015, they knew they had to attack the job with the urgency of a striker seeking a late equalizer.
Getting Up Top
The £185,000 contract comprised work on three different sides of Goodison Park. One was the internal roof structure on Gwladys Street, behind one goal; another was the external roof structure on Park End, behind the other goal; and the final was the floodlight structure on Bullens Road, which runs parallel to one full-length side of the pitch (100.5 m, 109.9 yd.).
The job specifications were similar for all three structures, but Lawrence’s team knew they had to do the job in phases, given the time constraints and the reality that each side would likely take several weeks to complete. So they decided to do work on the Bullens Road and Park End stands in 2015, leaving the Gwladys structure for 2016. In each case, the adjacent stadium seats were protected with tarp covers before any work began.
Wearing hard hats, harnesses, safety boots, high-visibility vests, overalls, gloves, dust marks, and safety glasses from RM Industrial Supplies as personal protective equipment (PPE), the workers quickly discovered that some of the project’s most challenging aspects were reaching the lofty heights atop the stadium.
The crew used aerial work platforms from Skyjack to reach those high areas, with four men in the air on platforms and four men on the ground to help set up the platforms and clean up any falling debris. The platforms were linked together using boards and handrails, and safety lines were installed for the crew to attach their safety harness lanyards.
But even the simple concept of grounding the Skyjack machines had complications, considering all the work that Everton was trying to squeeze into the short off-season.
“The Skyjack machines were not allowed to touch any of the pitch, since it was being re-laid,” Lawrence said. “And [parts] of the ground had an adverse camber, from the end of the pitch to the seating area. We had to drive the Skyjack units onto railway sleepers, four high by four deep, to keep the wheels level.”
Fortunately for Lawrence’s team, the versatility of the Skyjack platforms helped overcome some unique challenges of the 125-year-old stadium.
“There are a lot of crisscross steel bracings towards the rear of the stands,” Lawrence said. “To boom through those and reach the rear, the Skyjack basket turns a full 90 degrees to help the operator maneuver through those tight spots. I don’t know of any other machines where the basket allows you to turn that far.”
“Without this, the project would have taken a lot longer to do, and would probably have resulted in us having to scaffold some areas, which would have added additional costs,” Lawrence observed.
Once finally in the air, the actual coating work began by washing each segment of each structure by high-pressure waterjetting, seeking to remove all salts and other contaminants.
“We had to remove all the old coating and virtually everything that was loose, which was 90 percent dirt and dust accumulated over all the years,” Lawrence said.
The washing process took at least a week for all three sections.
Once complete, Lawrence’s crew then got to work on preparing the surface for coating. Using Makita power sanders, they blasted the steel beams to a surface cleanliness of International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standard 8501-1. This pictorial guideline means that when viewed without magnification, the surface must be free from oil, grease, dirt, rust, and prior paint coatings.
Using brushes and rollers supplied by Bromborough Paints, the crew applied the Jotamastic 90 Aluminum Primer from Jotun Paints to an average dry film thickness (DFT) of 100 microns (3.9 mils). Wet film thickness (WFT) readings were recorded using wet combs, and once dry, an Elcometer gage was used to check the DFT and ensure that it was in line with the specification.
Each segment coated with the primer was allowed to cure overnight, and then the Hardtop AX polyurethane topcoat from Jotun was applied the next day to an average DFT of 50 microns (2.0 mils). EPIC and Everton worked in partnership throughout the process with Jotun, which carried out weekly site visits to check the quality of the preparation and the paint thickness.
“Jotun had their own inspector who came out to each phase of the job to make sure everything was going to specifications,” Lawrence said. “They did dry film thickness tests on the primer. This gave Everton the peace of mind from the manufacturer that the quality of the work was as specified.”
By the time the current 2016/2017 Premier League season started last August, all three structures were successfully painted — and a 125-year-old stadium suddenly looks rejuvenated.
For Lawrence and his crew, many of whom are diehard fans of either Everton or rival local squad Liverpool F.C., the opportunity to freshen up one of the Premier League’s storied venues was a major achievement.
“A couple were big fans, and that’s really cool,” Lawrence said. “We do a lot of work for Liverpool as well. They all enjoy these types of jobs.”
Most importantly, officials at Everton gave rave reviews to the EPIC crew and the work done to enhance Goodison Park.
“Everton was very happy,” Lawrence said. “The end result was a very pleased client who had a difficult project completed safely, on time and to budget.”