While football fans across the country are looking to see how their club will fare this season, at Kilmarnock FC the biggest change has been at pitch level. Gone is the previous grass turf and in its place, a brand new 3G pitch which is transforming the club for the better.

Paul Di Giacomo, Kilmarnock FC Community Engagement Manager said, “I first heard about the plans before Christmas last year and all the staff agreed this was a great idea. From that point until the announcement in June there was lots of consultation, from the Chairman and all the way down to the staff.”

Rugby Park is now a facility that can be used seven days a week and the benefits are clear, even in the short few weeks it has been available for use. Paul said, “Previously the first team had trained in Glasgow and it’s not great to be an Ayrshire based club that has to train outwith the local area. It was also hard sometimes to get the players to engage locally as they’d have to travel from Glasgow to Kilmarnock after training.

“Since the new pitch has been in place this has totally changed. We have the first team using the pitch during the day and manager, Allan Johnston, can now be based entirely in his office at the stadium. We also hope to hold some open training sessions for fans in the future as part of working to a new level of engagement.”

Not only has the first team benefited, but Kilmarnock’s community projects and youth teams are also using the new pitch. Paul said “Our youth and community sections were either spending money on facilities or leasing. Now our community projects have access to the pitch in the afternoons and our youth teams are on in the evenings.

“The new pitch has meant the whole club is more engaged and Rugby Park now feels like a hive of activity. We have between 200 and 300 kids using the pitch on a daily basis and if you include parents and guardians coming along, that’s a large number of people being in and around the club.”

While the early response from the local area has been positive, Paul admits that the club isn't resting on their laurels, saying “It’s still early doors. We’ve been happy with the buzz and the positive feedback, but we still want to do more and to keep the community coming back to the club.”

The funding for the project was provided by Billy Bowie Special Projects Limited. Billy Bowie stated previously, "I'm fully committed to making this project happen as soon as possible in order to make Rugby Park the focus of all of the club's activities. ‎This will transform the way the stadium is utilised in future and will be of real benefit to everyone associated with the club."

The benefits have certainly been clear so far, as the club has been transformed into one that is right at the heart of the community. Paul concluded by saying, “I certainly believe we will be reaping the benefits of the new pitch in a years’ time and personally I believe most clubs will follow suit in the future.”