OTTERY St Mary’s new all-weather synthetic pitch was declared officially open at a special ceremony with international hockey player Giselle Ansley.
Representatives from all the groups involved in the project gathered to watch the British field hockey player Giselle Ansley, cut the ribbon to open the pitch.
The main users of the pitch are pupils of The King’s School, the local community and Sidmouth & Ottery Hockey Club.
Thanks to a £113,000 grant from Sport England, together with funding from East Devon, LED Leisure and The King’s School, the new pitch features many improvements including better drainage, a new shock pad and back boards and increased fence height.
There is now plenty of additional off-pitch storage, as well as new hockey goals and football goals, with wheels to make them easier to move. The dugouts for managers and subs have also been relocated and improved.
The pitch itself has been upgraded to a much higher standard, particularly for hockey, and can now be divided into three football pitches and two mini hockey pitches, making it much more versatile for school use.
Councillor Paul Diviani, the Leader of East Devon District Council, said: “Thanks to funding from Sport England, ourselves, LED Leisure and King’s School, Ottery’s new sports pitch is once again able to play a vital role in the community, providing an excellent sporting facility for both existing and new users.
“It is essential that there are sufficiently good numbers of quality playing pitches available in East Devon to ensure that everyone who wants to play sport can do so and we are proud to have successfully delivered this project to completion, as part of East Devon’s Playing Pitch Strategy.”
Councillor Tom Wright, East Devon’s portfolio holder for the environment, said: “Ottery’s new synthetic pitch is a shining example of the fulfilment of East Devon’s promise to provide playing pitches.
“It is essential that we ensure there is sufficient provision of open space in the district and playing pitches are an important element of that commitment.
“I am delighted that such good use is already being made of this excellent facility and I would like to thank everyone involved in this project for helping bring it to fruition.
“I would also like to thank Giselle for taking time out of her busy playing schedule to come and open the pitch for us today.”
Councillor Darryl Nicholas, East Devon’s lead councillor for sport and recreation, said: “Having access to sport and recreation facilities can make an enormous difference to the health and well-being of communities.
“The new pitch at Ottery will be a fantastic asset to this part of the district, providing both the open space and the opportunities for people of all ages to be active and enjoy exercising, whether in competitive sports or in leisure activities.”
Rob Gammon, King’s School headteacher, said: “The King’s School was delighted to celebrate the official opening of the newly refurbished all weather pitch at Ottery St Mary.
“This project has been a once in a generation opportunity to refresh the facility and inspire young people and adults from the school and surrounding community to play hockey.
“We were delighted to welcome Giselle Ansely back to the school to open the pitch and her presence was an inspiration for students, many of whom took the opportunity to speak to her during her visit.
“We would like to thank all the partners that have worked with us on this project to make it a success.”
Peter Gilpin, CEO of LED Leisure, said: “LED Leisure is delighted that this much-needed improvement to the sports pitch has been achieved, thanks to the hard work by all parties and the support of Sport England.
“This is a valuable and well-used facility and this investment will ensure its use for many years to come.
“It is particularly important that less high-profile sports such as hockey continue to receive backing, and the GB Women’s team proved in Rio de Janeiro what can be achieved with the right support.
“Let’s hope that this will inspire local players to follow in Giselle’s footsteps!”