SWIFTS chairman Gary White gives the lowdown on the club’s plans to put a new artificial pitch in place at the Aspen Waite Arena, and highlights some of the benefits it will bring in a Q&A.
Q. Fans may have read a recent article in the Maldon Standard about plans for a 3G pitch at Scraley Road. So what is being proposed?
A. It is for a new 3G pitch in the main stadium. We were looking at the possibility of having a 3G pitch out the back for our training and youth teams, but parking, logistics and prohibitive costs made that unrealistic. So we are going to replace the main pitch instead.
Q. When do you hope the new project might be completed?
A. Hopefully for the start of next season.
Q. What happened with the previous plans for a new ground off Goldhanger Road combined with a new Bloor Homes housing development on the existing Scraley Road site?
A. Those plans were rejected by Maldon District Council in the summer of 2017. There was opposition from local residents and we did not want to commit to another lengthy search for a new site, especially as we already have such a valuable asset in the Aspen Waite Arena.
Q. Are there any other ground infrastructure works in the pipeline?
A. Yes, very much so. New FA regulations are coming into force which mean we are currently in the process of extending our changing rooms. We will also be extending our toilet facilities and replacing the external fencing. These all have to be completed by the start of next season.
Q. So what kind of red tape will the club face in order to bring the new pitch to fruition?
A. A formal planning application has gone in and has been circulated to local residents for their views. This is the type of project which has been completed at several other clubs – notably Bowers in recent in times – and has gone through in a straightforward way. So we hope it will be the same for us.
Q. How is it being financed?
A. It will be a combination of private sponsorship and donations, and potential grant funding. The cost will be around £450,000, with an additional cost of £170,000 for a replacement pitch every ten years.
Q. How will it help Swifts to grow as a football club?
A. We have 18 youth teams at the moment and a new Academy team starting next season. They will be making use of it and providing a pathway for young players into senior football, and hopefully our first team. We also have plans for a future Development side, up to five new youth teams, a ladies team and potentially a disability side. We are also looking at areas such as walking football in the future.
Q. How does Swifts manager Julian Dicks feel about the prospect of switching to a 3G pitch?
A. He said he is ‘not a lover of 3G pitches’ but understands the huge benefits it could bring and the real world pressure and costs of maintaining our excellent pitch. Our pitch takes a lot of hard work to maintain and the cost of doing so is probably about £20-30,000 a year. So it was something we needed to look at.
Q. Will it have any benefits for the community?
A. Yes it will. It will open up the pitch for use during the day and we have had talks with Heybridge Primary School about them making use of it. We also have plans to talk to other schools and will have a proper online booking system in place.
Q. How can Swifts fans help?
A. We are looking for potential sponsors to help in contributing towards the capital cost, of course, and we would encourage anyone to support the project in the council’s consultation.
Q. What is the best way for anyone to get in touch if they have questions about the project?
A. Feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org