Work to create the first 'third generation' (3G) synthetic pitch in the Borders in Galashiels officially got underway today.
The 14 week construction programme will see the first full size 3G pitch and smaller synthetic training pitch be erected at the Fairydean ground in the town.
The facility is a culmination of the 'Netherdale - the Next Generation' (NTNG) which was set up in January 2010 to investigate ways of fundraising to create the much-needed facility for the Borders.
Capital funding of £500,000 towards the project was approved by SBC in June which followed the announcement from the Scottish Government in March that the project was to receive £350,000 from the CashBack for Communities Programme through sportscotland. The Hayward Trust also announced their contribution of £100,000 over five years in August last year.
SBC's Executive Member for Sport, Culture and Community Learning, Councillor Graham Garvie said: "I am absolutely delighted to see work get underway today on this much-needed facility for the Borders.
"It will be a fantastic facility for the development of rugby, football and other sports both recreationally and competitively and I am sure everyone who has worked so hard to get to this point today is very pleased to finally see work get underway today."
The 3G pitch provides and ideal all-weather surface for both football and rugby. The main pitch will meet the highest football and rugby standards, being both FIFA 2-star rated and IRB-22 compliant. The underlying shockpad will ensure that the pitch meets stringent rugby head-fall height conditions, without compromising football requirements.
Demand to use the facility is high with local clubs as well as the adjacent Borders College, already signed up to use the facility
Leader of SBC, David Parker added: "The need for a 3G facility was recognised by sportscotland and the SFA as being strategic importance to the game. We were delighted to allocate the funding towards this extremely worthwhile project."
Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Kenny MacAskill MSP was in attendance today representing the Scottish Government's Cashback for Communities scheme. He explained: "The 3G pitch being built in Galashiels is a fantastic example of the benefits our CashBack programme is bringing to communities in the Borders and elsewhere in Scotland. This state-of-the-art facility will allow local rugby and football players to train in all weathers and hopefully help unearth some future sporting stars.
"Since Cashback was launched in 2007, more than £41million has been seized from crooks and ploughed into projects like this and other activities that broaden the horizons of our youngsters and set them on a positive path in life.
"Earlier this year, we announced that £5million of money confiscated under proceeds of crime legislation was to be ploughed into sport facilities projects such as this one, helping local clubs to nurture sporting talent, and leaving a lasting impression on communities for generations to come."
Gala Fairydean chairman Jos Ritchie explained: "This is a great day - not only for Gala Fairydean, but also for all the original partners within NTNG. I would like to thank both SBC and the SFA for their commitment and support towards this fantastic project"
Speaking on behalf of the partnership, local businessman Mike Gray said: "NTNG is delighted that the work is now underway and we just cant wait to see the pitch take shape. As well as SBC, SFA and Cashback for Communities through sportscotland, I would also like to thank the Hayward Trust for their generous contribution."
Regional Manager from the SFA (South East) David Drummond said: "This project is leading the way nationally and the passion and enthusiasm to bring this facility to Galashiels has been fantastic. We now hope that similar partnerships of good practice will be established across the Borders following a positive outcome from this project."
Upon completion, the facility will be managed by Border Sport and Leisure Trust (BSLT) who currently already manage SBC's sports facilities.
David Ferguson Vice Chair of BSLT Board added: "The TriFitness gym at Netherdale is a great example of the quality of facility that can be achieved by partners working together. That came from a partnership between Heriot-Watt University, Borders College and BSLT and this new 3G facility has come from a host of football and rugby clubs working together in Galashiels.
"The Trust applauds their effort and commitment and is delighted to support it by managing the facility. This kind of partnership approach is the way ahead for sport and leisure facilities in the Borders."
The NTNG is made up of football clubs in the town, the Scottish FA South East Region, local rugby clubs, the Scottish Rugby Union (SRU), Borders College and SBC.
SRU Regional Development Manager, Brian Renwick added: "Having such a high standard of surface in the Borders is going have huge benefits of the development of rugby of all levels in the Borders and I am delighted to see work get underway today.
"Reaching this stage is a great testament to all the partners and members of the community who have shown commitment and determination to make this vision a reality. Working in partnership can never be underestimated when looking at the future of sport in the region. Through working together closely and bringing rugby and football together, we have secured what will be a facility that will benefit the wider community for many years to come."
Contractors for the works is Greenfields Allsports UK Ltd. The pitch is due for completion by late October/early November 2011.