Hockey association celebrates 25 years of synthetic pitches
HOCKEY: Grafton Hockey Association stalwart Pat Connelly says he had seen a noticeable boom in the sport over the past 25 years and there is one major change he puts it all down to.
The introduction of the first synthetic turf pitch a quarter of a century ago at Clarence Valley Regional Hockey Complex was a true turning point in the sport's history, according to the four-decade veteran.
Connelly was on the committee which erected the sand-based synthetic turf, now known as Legends Field, which was headed by the godfather of local hockey Kerry Willsmore.
In what had become the fashion for the two Grafton hockey associations they raised most of the money for the field's construction with only a small part of the funding coming from Government grants and council loans.
Such was the demand to upgrade the complex to a premier facility, several members of the 1991 Synthetic Turf Committee put their own houses up as collateral to source funding.
"It was pushed by Kerry," Connelly said.
"We had never considered it because it was always grass fields in those days. But it was the trend that was forming in the regional hockey centres," he said.
"We were one of the first associations to implement the synthetic fields in this region with Lismore following soon after."
Connelly admitted initially there was resistance to the new fields, but in the 25 years since they had proven their worth.
"It was new idea, and it was unknown so of course there was resistance, but look at it now," he said.
"The sport has come along in leaps and bounds since those days and now we host a lot of state championships and rep carnivals."
Legends Field had a $1 million overhaul four years ago.