TWO of Suffolk’s leading football clubs opened improved facilities on Saturday.
Bury St Edmunds MP Jo Churchill and former Ipswich Town player George Burley opened the 3G pitch and community facility at Needham Market FC.
Meanwhile, the Mayor of Felixstowe Nick Barber opened improved ground facilities at Felixstowe & Walton United.
The 3G pitch received funding of £472,792 from the Football Foundation, which is funded by the Premier League, The FA and Government via Sport England.
The club also received a £20,000 grant from the Premier League through the Football Stadia Improvement Fund – the sister organisation of the Football Foundation – towards the community facility.
This has changing rooms on the ground floor and a café and multi-function room on the first floor.
The funding has enabled Needham Market, who play in the Betvictor Southern Premier Central Division at Step 3 level, to provide a facility which will enhance and develop football provision for over 1,000 people in the local community.
Pictured at the opening of the 3G pitch and community facilities at Needham Market FC are (left to right) Academy student Jose Santa, former Ipswich Town player and manager George Burley, Suffolk FA Chairman Phil Lawler, Bury St Edmunds MP Jo Churchill, Needham Market Operations & Academy Director Robert Peace and Academy student Abbie Wilkinson
Robert Peace, Needham Market Operations & Academy Director, said: “The 3G pitch and community building will greatly enhance Needham Market Football Club and the Academy.
“The 3G pitch has allowed us to introduce new football provision including female and disability football and a full quota of Eastern Junior Alliance football from U13-U16.
“The 3G pitch has also benefited local clubs including Stowupland Falcons and Needham Market Phoenix who train on the facility. We have also been able to include projects such as Wildcats and will soon be introducing Walking Football and Mars Just Play sessions.
“The community building includes four changing rooms, multi-function room and the Hub that is community café. The facilities upstairs are accessible via a lift resulting in a building that is accessible for all and providing an environment for the local and wider community to enjoy the provision Needham Market Football Club and Academy can offer.”
The opening was followed by a showcase game between mixed Needham Market teams consisting of first team, Academy and women’s team players.
Felixstowe & Walton United received a £38,154 grant from the Premier League via the FSIF towards a new 100-seater covered stand at the Colneis end of the ground along with new pitch perimeter fencing and restriction fencing at both ends of the ground and new hardstanding areas.
Suffolk FA Vice-Chairman Ian Booth (second left) congratulates Felixstowe & Walton United Vice-Chairman Tony Barnes on the opening of the new stand and other facilities at the club's Dellwood Avenue ground as Mayor of Felixstowe Nick Barber (second right) and Graham Fisher, who won the 'Name the Stand' draw look on Photograph: Tom Bradford
The total cost of the improvements was around £54,500, with the remaining £16,500 from coming via the club’s own fundraising, including a ‘Name the stand’ draw.
The Seasiders play in the BetVictor Isthmian League North Division at Step 4 level.
Chris Daynes, the club’s facilities manager, said: “Promotion on the pitch to Step 4 brings with it promotion off the pitch too, and these latest ground improvements have brought the ground up to Grade D, suitable for Step 4 football.
“It’s the latest of a near £750,000 transformation of the Goldstar Ground over the last three years and enables the club to continue its progression, attract new players and volunteers and also helps the club give our growing supporter base a much-improved environment to enjoy the game in comfortable surroundings.”
The opening was followed by a game between Felixstowe & Walton United and a West Ham United XI.
Mayor of Felixstowe Nick Barber cuts the ribbon to officially open the new stand and other facilities at Felixstowe & Walton United's Dellwood Avenue ground watched by (left to right) Graham Fisher, who won the 'Name the Stand' draw, Suffolk FA Vice-Chairman Ian Booth and Felixstowe & Walton United Vice-Chairman Tony Barnes Photograph: Tom Bradford