Out with the old... Manuka Oval gets a turf change. (Twitter)

Out with the old... Manuka Oval gets a turf change. (Twitter)

Asbestos-covered irrigation piping dating back to the 1970s is being removed from Manuka Oval.

Heavy machinery took to the Canberra venue to begin the resurfacing process, the first time since the ground’s initial construction in 1924.

One of the first tasks as part of the multi-million dollar facelift was removing the piping, which was laid more than 30 years ago. It was discovered before work began, and is not expected to delay the project.

Director-general of the economic development directorate, David Dawes, said all the necessary steps had been followed to ensure the safe removal of the pipes.

‘‘It is unlikely any asbestos other than irrigation mains will be found beneath the playing surface,’’ Mr Dawes said.

‘‘A study undertaken by Coffey Environments Australia Pty Ltd has concluded that soils in the playing area are unlikely to have been affected by contamination and are considered suitable for re-use for other purposes.

‘‘The contractor will ensure any asbestos pipe found will be dug up, bagged, sealed and removed by licensed specialists in accordance with approved quality control and environment management plans.’’

All going to plan, the ground will be ready for the annual Prime Minister’s XI cricket match against England on January 14.

It will be the second straight year the game has been held under lights.

Capacity will be boosted from 13,500 to more than 15,500, and will increase the chances of Canberra hosting games in the 2015 cricket World Cup.

A sold-out crowd of 11,548 (capacity is lower for cricket matches because of the side screens) was on hand for the inaugural appearance of the Australian team in a one-day international against the West Indies in February.

This stage of the redevelopment is part of a long-term $35 million investment into Manuka Oval expected to be finished by the end of the decade, by which time the ground will be able to take 19,000 people.

Manuka Oval will also host four GWS Giants games a year - three of which will be part of the AFL premiership season - until 2021.

The number of permanent cricket pitches on the ground will be increased from five to seven.

Territory venues general manager Neale Guthrie said drop-in pitches were considered, but at an annual cost in excess of $200,000, were not cost effective.

‘‘It’s about $200,000 to $250,000 in recurring costs to lift the cricket blocks in and out, then there’s extra costs in having the nursery that’s not on site,’’ Guthrie said.

‘‘Cricket like to have seven [pitches], it’s just a better choice and less wear across the wicket block.

‘‘The AFL was comfortable going to seven because it meant there wasn’t as much wear across the full surface, so you could get a good growth of grass during the winter months.’’

The work also includes infrastructure for spectators and media, a new boundary fence and three new dug-outs.