THE New Croft in Haverhill now boasts one of the best football facilities in the South of England.
A second 3G pitch has recently opened on the site in Chalkstone Way, giving it three stadia pitches available for users as a result.
Peter Betts, chief executive of Haverhill Community Sports Association who operate The New Croft site, said the facility is now the best grassroots facility in East Anglia.
Work on the second 3G pitch, which was carried out by SIS Pitches who also installed the first 3G pitch at The New Croft, started in June and was completed in late September.
The overall cost of the project was £1.3m, with 80 per cent coming via a Football Foundation grant of £825,000 and the balance via fundraising, donations and small grants from organisations and businesses in the local community.
Betts said: “From the first meeting to completion the project was delivered in just 17 months, which is incredible considering it can take up to three or four years.
“What we have been able to achieve is huge for the local community. It was identified as a key project as the first 3G pitch had been even more successful than we envisaged, so there was a clear need for a second one in the area.
“It’s fair to say that the grass pitches in the area are not the best, so we needed a more sustainable model.
“It is a real community project and we have already launched the charitable arm with the New Croft Foundation offering opportunities to young people with a new programme tackling health and wellbeing for both boys and girls, and those with special needs and disabilities plus the post-16 education programme run by Kevin Horlock.”
The New Croft in Haverhill now boasts one of the best football facilities in the South of England following the addition of the second 3G pitch pictured above and in the main photograph.
Betts had special praise for both the directors and staff – facilities manager Sophie Grey, football development manager Lois Balfour and finance manager Holly Mayhew – at The New Croft.
He said: “I live locally and have a passion for the area, but I can’t give the directors and staff here enough credit. When we moved here, we had just grass pitches, but now we have three stadia pitches, two of which are 3Gs, and there is nothing else like it in the whole of East Anglia.
“We have built this ourselves and have travelled all over the country to new FA Hub sites in Newcastle, Sunderland, Liverpool and London to see what they have done to enable us to give Haverhill the best facility possible.
“You can only do that if you have people who are driven to do it and the directors and staff have made it happen, as outlined Lois, Sophie and Holly especially have been fantastic, whilst working under huge pressure in challenging environments.”
Although the facility now has two 3G pitches, Betts said it was important to maintain the standard of the grass pitch as one of the best in the area.
“Parkers Pitches, who maintain the pitch, have done a fantastic job for us and we are very fortunate to work with them,” he said.
With three full-size pitches now available, Betts said that The New Croft is already taking bookings for end-of-season cup semi-finals and finals next April and May.
The New Croft has recently employed Rhys Shulver, who is also manager of Step 6 side Haverhill Borough, as football development officer, while Sophie Grey has set up a hospitality and catering arm of the business.
Betts continued: “We have had to look outside the box and look at ways of bringing in more revenue to be sustainable at the same time as making sure our facilities are affordable for all.
“We also want to raise awareness of what we have to offer, so we can make sure it is sustainable to keep driving forwards.
“We have had so much positive feedback and are now already looking at what we can do to make the facility, which is up there with the best in the South of England, even better.”
Suffolk FA Football Development Manager Matt Stebbings said: “It is great to see the new 3G open and in use. Well done to all involved with the project to get it over the line.
“It is exciting times with the launch of the New Croft Foundation to open up football to perhaps those that may have not accessed the site before and improve the mental and physical health of those in and around Haverhill.”