A first for Hampshire as ‘wonderful’ new sporting asset will benefit entire Hayling Island community
The entire Hayling Island community will be able to benefit from a ‘wonderful’ new sporting facility.
Local MP Alan Mak delivered the first bowl on the brand new all-weather surface at Hayling Island Bowls Club.
The £160,000 surface was officially opened following speeches from both Mr Mak and club President Brian Pullan.
The funding for the project was provided by Havant Borough Council and Sport England, in addition to contributions from the bowls club.
Havant BC donated around £80,000 - from their Community Infrastructure Fund that developers pay into - while Sport England donated around £70,000. The remainder, around £10,000, was donated by the club.
A new set of floodlights could well be operational later this week, allowing play late into the evenings.
There are other clubs in the area with an all-weather surface - Waterlooville, Cowplain and Bedhampton - but Hayling will be the first club in the whole of Hampshire to have lights.
The club, situated in Hayling Park, can use the lights until 10pm from October through to April, but due to environmental reasons won’t be allowed to use them during the summer months.
Mr Mak said: ‘I’m very pleased to have opened the new all-weather surface and bowled the first ball.
‘The club has been at the heart of the community on Hayling since 1977 and this new pitch will help secure their future by enabling play all year round.
‘It’s one of only a few clubs in the southern region to have an all-weather pitch.
‘Thanks to club President Brian Pullan, club secretary Mike Wooding, the committee and members and supporters for all the work they do for the club and our local community.’
Wooding told The News that talks about installing an all-weather surface were first held in 2017.
‘When I joined eight years ago the green was one of the best greens in the county,’ he recalled. ‘But then, I’m afraid, it went downhill. It didn’t play properly, it was poorly maintained - the ladies and the elderly were struggling to play on the grass and our membership went down.’
Wooding added: ‘When we first spoke to Sport England we were told we could have the money but we’d have to have floodlights. We said we didn’t think there was a need.
‘The debate carried on and Sport England eventually said we needed lights but they would give us £30,000 towards them.
‘Their aim is to try and maximise the amount of hours the community can use the surface.’
Hayling already hold ‘roll-up’ events on Saturday and Monday mornings when anyone can try their hand at bowls.
The club have also signed up to Sport England’s ‘Get Up and Go’ initiative, which will offer taster sessions followed by a five-week introductory course for anyone interested. After those five weeks are up, they can decide whether to join the Hayling club as a member.
The island’s U3A group have started using the all-weather surface, while groups such as Hayling Guides and Scouts and Hayling College are also interested.
‘This facility isn’t just for our members,’ said Wooding. ‘This wonderful asset can be used by the whole community.’
Following the opening ceremony, there were matches between Hayling Bowls Club members, a team from Disabilities England, and the Dorset Youth Academy team.
By arranging those games, Pullan was hoping to highlight the inclusivity of bowls and encourage people that wouldn’t typically consider the sport to get involved.
‘I want to thank Alan for opening our new all-weather surface,’ said Pullen. ‘It is brilliant for the club, giving us much greater availability for members and novices who want to try out the sport.
‘It wouldn’t have been possible without the continued support of our membership who all chipped in to raise the funds for this great community asset.’
Wooding is hopeful that the all-weather surface will result in more lady members joining - leading to the club fielding ladies teams in local leagues once again.