Sky Sports and Countdown presenter, Jeff Stelling, has returned to his old school to officially open a new £600,000 floodlit artificial grass pitch which will support the development of youth football across Winchester.
The Henry Beaufort School in Harestock aims to create a community centre of excellence for youth football and has received grants from The Football Foundation and Winchester City Council to provide the all-weather training facilities.
The new pitch, which has been floodlit by Abacus Lighting, means that not only will sports lessons be less affected by weather, but the facility will be available to other local schools and a number of community groups including local junior football clubs, private youth football companies, voluntary organisations providing activities for local children and Southampton Football Club's `Saints Ability' for disabled children.
Jonathan de Sausmarez, Head Teacher at the school, said: "It is a great moment to have finally reached the stage when we can open one of the best school and community facilities in Hampshire. An all-weather football pitch has been a dream for many years and my thanks go to all the people who have made it possible. Now I hope we can support the many young people in the area who desperately need this facility."
Abacus has installed six floodlighting masts around the pitch and helped the school overcome strict planning restrictions brought on by objections from local residents in neighbouring properties.
With the use of floodlighting meaning extended hours of use for the pitch, residents were concerned about light pollution intruding across their gardens and through their windows. Following close consultation with Hampshire County Council and the local community, Abacus designed back shields and special cowls that have been fitted to the floodlights to prevent direct glare onto surrounding properties. The floodlights have also been fitted with automatic shut off timers.
Picture Right L to R is - Jonathan de Sausmarez (headmaster) Jeff Stelling and James Brunt (sports lighting specialist at Abacus).
Gini Ainley, Community and Business Development Manager at the school, said: "Abacus supported us throughout the pre-planning process and even met with local residents to discuss their concerns. The subsequent lighting solution has effectively reduced the amount of light spillage into neighbouring properties and, so far, we have been very pleased with the performance of the floodlights."
Mark Jeffery, Commercial Projects Manager at A P Thompson, the main contractors for the facility, said: "We have worked with Abacus on 99% of our pitch projects. Their innovative products and solutions-led approach, coupled with our wealth of experience in synthetic and natural sports surfaces, makes our partnership a formidable force in the sports pitch market."
James Brunt, Sports Lighting Specialist at Abacus, said: "This is a fantastic facility for both the school and local community and we are privileged to be chosen to light it. We have been working on this project very closely with Hampshire County Council to help the school gain planning permission and it's great to finally see it 'up in lights'. I hope the school take great pleasure out of using this facility for many years."