MUDDY matches for keen young footballers could be a thing of the past after a new £1.6m sports facility was opened.
After months of renovation, the Front Lawn Recreation Ground, in Leigh Park, was finally unveiled on Saturday.
Funded in part by a grant from the Premier League, the new sporting hub has been given a major overhaul to its pavilion as well as a new, all-weather 3G artificial grass pitch.
Sporting leaders have hailed the investment as a major positive for the area and hope the upgraded site will create a boom of activity in Leigh Park.
Tom Ashman is the chairman of Havant and Waterlooville Youth FC, one of the groups to benefit from the investment.
He said: ‘This is going to be a big, big improvement for us. It’s huge.’
The revamp was backed by Havant Borough Council, FA Facilities Fund, Sport England and Hampshire FA.
As well as Havant and Waterlooville Youth FC, Hawks in the Community and Active Communities Networks will also benefit. Others using the site include Hampshire FA and Widbrook United FC.
In all its hoped the additional facilities, as well as the site’s existing grass pitches and three tennis courts, will boost the number of teams at the site from 30 to 79.
Professional boxer Joel McIntyre grew up in Leigh Park and is an Active Communities Networks ambassador.
He said the improvements would play a key role in attracting youngsters into sport and away from crime.
‘I’m overwhelmed by this, it’s stunning,’ he said. ‘This will just mean so much for the kids in Leigh Park. It will change their lives.’
The 29-year-old English light heavyweight champion said getting involved with boxing at 17 had turned his life around.
‘I was a little bit of a scallywag when I was younger and getting into trouble,’ he added. ‘I was just a kid from the manor.
‘We use to just make our own fun. If I’d had things like this it would have been amazing.’
Front Lawn Primary Academy pupil Olivia Carter cut the ribbon on the site, accompanied by Havant MP Alan Mak and Havant mayor Elaine Shimbart.
Mr Mak said: ‘The new Front Lawn sports hub is a fantastic community asset for the whole Havant constituency including Leigh Park. It’s great to see so much investment coming into the area.’