Ilfracombe Academy celebrates the end of more than two decades of waiting for a state-of-the-art artificial pitch to provide a much needed boost to sporting facilities in the town.
ILFRACOMBE Academy has celebrated the opening of its new state-of-the-art all weather football pitch.
The £300,000 artificial pitch was officially opened on Thursday by North Devon MP Nick Harvey as part of a day of footballing activities to mark its long awaited arrival.
For more than 20 years the school has been trying to get funding for an artificial pitch, and the project was finally made possible in partnership with North Devon Council and Ilfracombe Town Football Club.
Funding was provided by the Football Foundation, Fullabrook Community Interest Company, Ilfracombe Town Council and the academy itself.
The ‘third generation’ rubber crumb surface will offer high class training facilities and an FA standard pitch to under-10s level for not only academy students, but the whole community.
“It’s a fantastic sporting facility for the school and the community, but it also represents what a community can do when it puts its mind to achieving something together,” said headteacher Sharon Marshall.
Speaking at the opening, former head teacher Alan Bacon said it was some 22 years ago when they first approached the authorities such as the FA to help create an artificial pitch, and the result was thanks to a lot of effort from many people and the current head teacher.
Carrying out the opening, Nick Harvey said: “This is a wonderful site, it really does look impressive and after so many years of effort it is a reality.
“It has taken some dogged determination to make it a reality, thanks to all those who worked on the project, delivered it and those who have funded it.”
Shane Gooch, under-12s manager for Ilfracombe Youth Football, said the youth section ranged from ages five to 16 but they hoped to capture more members, as people had been travelling to Braunton or Barnstaple because until now there was no all-weather facility in Ilfracombe.
The opening festivities saw the first shot on goal was taken by the youngest Year 7 student, Owen Belgrove, who successfully kicked the ball around guest goalkeeper Richard Slaney from North Devon Council, who has worked closely with the project.
Other shots were taken by students and visitors including Nick Harvey who managed a neat nutmeg.
The event concluded with a Sixth Form versus Year 11 charity football match, a hard-fought affair that saw the Sixth win 2-1, with £268 raised for the RNLI.
* For more pictures from yesterday’s opening, CLICK HERE.