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WORK IS SET TO START on a brand new artificial playing surface at Billericay Town’s New Lodge ground, offering the ambitious Vanarama National League South outfit a greater opportunity to provide a base for their senior and junior teams.
The Blues already possess great stadium facilities. However, matches regularly fell foul of wet weather conditions, costing the club lost revenue and disappointing their fan base.
“There was a loss of revenue but also it was becoming a bit embarrassing having to let down both our own fans and those of visiting teams. Every game became a nightmare with planned pitch inspections and late match postponements,” co-owner, Nick Hutt, told Yellow Sport.
“On top of that, losing a weekend game and rescheduling is really costly. You just don’t get the same number of fans for midweek games as people struggle with travel and work commitments.
But the new playing surface will put an end to Billericay’s troubles as well as offer a home for all the teams playing under their banner and open other avenues: “The bigger benefit is for all of our women’s, girl’s and boy’s teams who will have increased opportunity to train and play there,” Mr Hutt added.
“One of the things that we also want to do, an important section we are currently missing as a club, is a section for disability groups. We have plans for the future for disability football as well as walking football for the community.”
As well as those currently representing Town, Mr Hutt hoped the ground will now benefit the wider community and attract further interest and support from further afield: “We will be inviting schools to use the new pitch, but a lot of the schools in the Billericay area already have facilities of their own.
“For example, Billericay School has its own 4g surface, which is currently where a lot of our boy’s teams are training.
“However, we have already had a lot of interest and contact from six-a-side leagues who want to set up at New Lodge. We have also had a few local clubs reach out to us to enquire about using our facility for training. There’s a lot of interest although our own club and community needs will always take precedence.”
And Billericay already has plans in place to expand further, although the current climate has tempered development for the time being.
“The work starts on the stadium pitch today and we expect the new surface to be installed in around ten weeks,” Mr Hutt continued.
“We are still trying to decide what we call the second pitch over the back of the ground – but we say the community pitch at the moment when we discuss it internally.
“The original plan was to do both pitches – the stadium and put down a second surface where the old training pitch used to be. But with everything that is going on, we have put that on hold until we get a better sense of when football will start again.
“The aim is still very much to do that second pitch when the time is right. We will be running fifty teams next year right across the club and there is just such a huge amount of internal demand.”