Getting ball rolling for hockey turf

Big push . . . Launching the South Canterbury Hockey Turf Trust’s fundraising raffle with the help of St Andrews players are turf trust chairwoman Anne-Marie McRae (back left) and South Canterbury Hockey development officer Janelle Amalfitano. PHOTO: CLAIRE ALLISON

A $1.3 million fundraising campaign has been launched to replace the ageing wet-dressed sand turf at Aorangi Park.

The South Canterbury Hockey Turf Trust aims to raise the funds and carry out the work over summer.

The turf was first installed in the 1990s.

About 15 years ago it was upgraded to become a wet-dressed turf.

Trust chairwoman Anne-Marie McRae said the turf had deteriorated over the years and was becoming increasingly slippery in damp conditions, causing players to slip and fall.

‘‘No-one likes playing on it and we see it as a health and safety hazard. We really need to get this done this summer.’’

Senior players would not play on the turf, so it was used mostly by primary and youth players.

With 800 of the 1300 registered hockey players in those age groups, it was used Monday to Friday and on Sundays as well.

The second artificial turf was also about 15 years old, but was an international-grade water turf and Mrs McRae said the trust was confident it could be made to last a few more years.

Installing a second water turf would position Timaru as a strong option for hosting national and international games.

As a former Black Stick, Mrs McRae said she had played a four-test series against the United States in 2002, in which games were played in Dunedin, Oamaru and Christchurch.

‘‘There’s no reason we couldn’t get a series in Timaru with a better turf.

‘‘It’s not pie in the sky. International teams love going to regional centres, because the regions really put it on for them.’’

The trust has to confirm with contractors by the end of August that it has sufficient funds to proceed.

The project would involve the entire turf being dug up.

Significant earthworks would be carried out by contractor Fulton Hogan and the new turf would installed by Germany company Polytan, which is supplying hockey turfs for the Paris Olympic Games.

‘‘They’re considered the best in the world and preferred by the Federation of International Hockey and Hockey New Zealand.’’

The new turf would have water sitting just on the surface, allowing the ball to roll freely.

It would also provide more cushioning for players.

The trust has raised funds over the past 15 years from signs, sponsorship and turf rental, and has saved about $600,000 so far.

Funds have also been committed by Trust Aoraki ($75,000), Pub Charity ($50,000) and the Community Trust of Mid and South Canterbury ($75,000).

The trust hoped for Timaru District Council support, and aimed to raise $150,000 from its hockey community and supporters, last week launching its first major fundraising push, a raffle for players to sell.

It is expected the raffle should raise $40,000, leaving a balance of $110,000.

‘‘Then we’ll be going out to sponsors and the wider community.’’

Mrs McRae said South Canterbury had a wealth of excellent sporting facilities thanks to the efforts of volunteers and the community’s generosity, and the trust hoped locals would see the value in supporting the upgrade.

If the trust can confirm funding by the end of August, the turf will be ripped up immediately after Masters games in October.

Installation would be scheduled for January or February.