Huntly Sports Trust’s 3G Pitch: A sports facility for the whole community
In June 2021, Huntly Sports Trust was awarded £100,000 to allow the Trust to refurbish and improve the synthetic pitch at the Meadows sports fields, Huntly, a key sporting facility in the area served by the fund.
The new facilities replaced a synthetic all-weather pitch and security fencing installed over 20 years ago. The pitch sits alongside grass pitches and changing facilities and has been well-used by local rugby and football clubs, community groups, schools and visiting clubs since its installation. Having an all-weather surface and floodlights, the pitch provided usable space for physical activities when the grass pitches were unplayable due to waterlogging or being frozen and after dark.
By 2021, however, the pitch was already well beyond its expected lifespan. The sand layer below the pitch was compacted in places, meaning that surface water or ice was a problem in wet conditions. In addition, the surface no longer met the standards required by football and rugby governing bodies, so local clubs could not host competitive matches as no similar facilities were available in the area. The security fencing was worn and patched in places.
The Huntly area is home to an active sporting community comprising five youth and amateur football/rugby sides and junior football and rugby leagues. The deterioration in the synthetic pitch meant several of these clubs had to travel to use facilities in Keith and Alford. The poor facilities also kept other new clubs from forming and hampered the development of new activities which would appeal to less active members of the community, such as walking football and walking rugby.
Before applying to the Clashindarroch Wind Farm Community Fund, the Trust had secured contributions from the Aberdeenshire Council and developer obligations of £245,000 towards the overall costs of £374,673 to replace and upgrade the facility.
The funding request was supported by a detailed business plan to evidence the likely financial sustainability of the new facilities. The hire rates were set at a level encouraging high usage and discounted rates for community users and schools.
Work commenced in November 2021 on a 12-week build programme, and, despite severe weather issues, the project was successfully delivered on time and on budget. The Trust employed a specialist pitch consultant throughout the building programme to manage the work and liaise with the appointed contractor.
The Trust has put in place an online booking system for the pitch. On completion of the re-surfaced pitch, block bookings had been received, resulting in six out of seven evenings being fully booked over the autumn and winter of 2022 / 23. Users include the local secondary school, after-school clubs, Huntly Rugby Club, Huntly Youth Football, Huntly Boys and Girls League Football, and Huntly Football Club under 18's Development Squad.
Feedback from users has been excellent. As Bruce Murray, a volunteer with the Trust explained:
“We have had groups come out from Aberdeen to use the facility and commentating on that it’s one of the best in Aberdeenshire. To-date, we have not had a single negative comment on the new facility.”
The next stage of the facility's development will be the replacement of the existing floodlights with energy-efficient LED lights.