Needham Market FC have revealed plans to install a new state-of-the-art third generation (3G) artificial grass pitch and changing facility.
The £750,000 project, which will be used to replace their current practice pitch outside their stadium for their full-time academy, rather than to be used for first-team, came to light this week after the Football Foundation revealed it has approved a grant application oif £473,792 by the Premier League and The FA Facilities Fund.
Needham Market’s operations and academy director, Robert Peace, said the rest of the project will be covered by private investors.
“The new facility will take the club and our academy to the next level and enable the community to play more football and different formats of the game,
“There is a large demand for floodlit 3G pitches in Mid Suffolk and this new site at Needham Market will satisfy this demand.”
He said the club were planning for work to start in January with hopes of opening over Easter, if not by the start of the 2018/19 season.
The site will also include a cafe and changing facilities over two stories.
Local junior teams will use the site as a training venue, with the Suffolk FA and Suffold County Schools’ FA also benefitting.
Needham’s first-team manager Richard Wilkins said his players would be able to benefit from training on it, having currently been travelling to Ipswich Town’s Playford Road dome once a fortnight.
“It is going to be a great facility and is only going to enhance the club and the community as a whole,” he said.
“The club have worked hard to get it all together and I am hoping we will be able to utilise the benefits of it soon.”
He did say he was pleased it would not replace their grass pitch for the first team, however.
“I can understand why clubs do that but I still prefer to play on grass any day of the week.
“It will be great for us as a training facility but I am not a great fan of it as a main pitch to play games on.
“There are still no long-term studies available of the impact of that.”
Paul Thorogood, chief executive of the Football Foundation, said: “It is fantastic news for Needham Market FC to have been awarded a grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund to develop a new floodlit 3G AGP.
“Since 2000, the Foundation has awarded 145 grants worth over £7m across Suffolk, towards grassroots sports projects worth £16.1m.
“This latest project, in Needham Market, will have a great impact on the local community by opening up access to our national game and improving the quality of sporting experience they enjoy at the enhanced facilities. It has been made possible by investment from the Premier League, The FA and Government, via Sport England.”
* Anyone interested in making 3G bookings for the site, or joining Needham Market Academy, is asked to email firstname.lastname@example.org