The opening of the new clubhouse at West Park Leeds Rugby Union Football Club (RUFC) in July not only marked the near completion of £5 million worth of brand new facilities, but highlighted a merger that puts Northern rugby on a whole new footing.
Three years ago Leeds RUFC members club and what was then West Park Bramhope RUFC decided to amalgamate. Leeds was a private members club without a team, having had to let their professional side go to Paul Caddick, owner of Headingley Stadium, while West Park had thriving amateur squads from seniors down to minis. Leeds had assets of £2 to £3 million, while West Park was sorely short of facilities.
Almost ten years of negotiations with Leeds City Council ended with Leeds RUFC selling their Chandos Park ground and buying 22 acres adjacent to the West Park club to build three new pitches. Eventually in 2006 the plans went through for not only a new clubhouse, but also a new all weather pitch, the three new pitches on the newly acquired land, new car parking, an extensive drainage system taking water from the pitches, the roof of the buildings and car parks into a balancing pond plus flood lighting for three pitches and irrigation for the 1st XV pitch.
J Pugh-Lewis arrived on site to begin a two-year contract, which included upgrading the club's existing pitches and constructing the three new ones. "The club, understandably didn't want to take all the existing pitches out of commission at the same time," recalls James Pugh-Lewis. "During the summer, as well as putting in pipe drains on the training pitch we installed pipe drains and sand slits on the 2nd team pitch so that it would be ready for the new season and available for more matches. This freed up the 1st team pitch and allowed a complete re-construction the following Spring."
Pugh-Lewis sprayed off the grass, laser graded, installed pipe drains and sand slits and performed extensive soil amelioration before re-seeding. Mike Bidgood, whose official title is Development Treasurer but in reality, is performing the role of Project Manager, remembers the weather conditions at the time. "The first team pitch had just got seeded and it rained for two months giving us almost perfect growing conditions," he recalls. Pugh-Lewis also installed sand slits on the training pitch and white post and rail perimeter fencing around the first team pitch. By the beginning of the 2007/08 season the club had two upgraded/re-constructed pitches in play plus a well drained training pitch.
Later in 2007 work began on the three new pitches, adjacent to the existing club grounds. Following earthmoving work to create three separate plateaux, Pugh-Lewis laser graded the pitches and installed the pipe drain systems. Returning in spring 2008 they cultivated the whole area and ameliorated the pitches with sand. Sand slits were then injected directly into the seedbed immediately prior to seeding in July.
By the middle of the month Mike Bidgood was supervising the installation of an irrigation system to feed the first XV pitch. Floodlighting had been installed on the first pitch, the grass training pitches and the all weather pitch. The comprehensive drainage system (serving the pitches, car parks and buildings) including the balancing pond was in place, and the only part of the plan to be completed was the demolition of the old clubhouse to be replaced with another car park.
"The Sycamores, which is what we've named our new ground now caters for the three amateur adult teams, as well as the minis and the juniors, which make up about 250 players," Mike explains. "We also rent out facilities in the winter to the Leeds Metropolitan University and the Leeds Carnegie Academy whilst in the summer the Leeds Akkies field two men's and one women's team. We have year round Rugby, and I doubt if anyone in the North of England has better facilities. The quality of work from J Pugh-Lewis is very, very good. Several of the players from the Carnegie Academy play for England age group sides. One of them commented on the standard of our first XV pitch saying that 'he'd played on many top-flight club's pitches that weren't as good as ours'."
For further information on J Pugh-Lewis contact the company on Tel: 01773 872362 or visit their website at: www.pugh-lewis.co.uk