Banbridge's new £250k pitch to be ready by Easter
Work is to start on Banbridge's new £250,000 artificial pitch within a fortnight - and the hope is that the new facility will be in use by Easter.
News of the development was announced yesterday at their Havelock Park base by club president Roger Martin, the culmination of considerable fundraising over the past year.
The current pitch has been in service for over 11 years but has come to the end of its lifespan, with health and safety concerns around its continued usage.
Now, with the help of the Department for Communities and the Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, and after considerable fundraising by the club, the next chapter of one of Ireland's top clubs is about to begin.
While work is being carried out by the Crawford Group, who won the tender, there is clearly going to be big disruption to training and match schedules during the construction phase.
Although this will hit most of the club's men's, women's and junior teams, it won't affect the senior men's team - the break in the Irish Hockey League programme to facilitate the international side at that time means they shouldn't miss any home games.
Banbridge Academy and Banbridge High schools have agreed to make their pitches available for the next few months.
"We are delighted that work to replace the pitch will get under way soon," said club president Martin.
"We have been working on the replacement pitch project for some time and now we are finally about to get over the line.
"Our club provides hockey for pre-school children up to our senior teams, and to those of all abilities, and the provision of a new pitch ensures this will continue in the years ahead.
"This is a significant investment for us and it will ensure that we can provide top-class facilities for hockey and other sports in Banbridge and attract senior international games and major tournaments to the club."
Among those attending the launch were Fergus Devitt from the Department for Communities, and the Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough's Lord Mayor, Gareth Wilson.
"Throughout its history the Banbridge club has put the town and local area on the map and we are delighted to be supporting this project which will allow hockey and other sports to continue here," said the Lord Mayor.
The Havelock Park pitch has hosted many big occasions over the past decade, including cup finals, the Irish Hockey League finals, EuroHockey League events and a host of international games, and it's expected the new pitch will do likewise.