ALTON Hockey Club celebrated at the weekend after successfully raising the final £8,000 needed to complete their ‘Push for a Pitch’ challenge.

In February last year, the club launched a £50,000 appeal to help toward the building of a new all-weather hockey pitch at Eggar’s School.

Expected to cost in the region of £530,000, the artificial pitch is needed so the club can continue to provide training for its hugely expanding junior section, as well as provide pitches for adult team matches.

According to spokesman Vicky Small, the club currently uses the all-weather pitch at Amery Hill School but, due to limitations on use at the weekend and the lack of floodlights, the juniors have limited training space on a Saturday morning and sometimes have to forego training altogether so that the adult teams can play league matches.

This is something the seniors need to do if they are to remain in the league and further the club’s already impressive progress at adult team level.

At present, Alton Hockey Club is operating at capacity, with two ladies’ teams, five men’s teams, and teams for boys and girls at under-eight, under-10, under-12, under-14 and under-16 level. The club also has more than 100 juniors wanting to learn and better their game. And it is having to turn potential new members away.

But the club is hoping to change all that.

The proposal is for the new artificial pitch in the grounds at Eggar’s School to be floodlit and that the club would have primary use, outside of school hours.

According to Vicky, Eggar’s and Alton Hockey Club are aiming to raise £120,000 between them toward construction costs, with Sport England providing the rest.

Eggar’s would be using the pitch for its pupils and potentially for other sports clubs, but Alton Hockey Club would have priority at weekends and on certain nights as part of the deal, to secure more pitch time for training, development and matches.

Overjoyed on Friday to find that planning permission had been granted for the pitch, hockey club members were in fine spirits when they arrived at Eggar’s School to enjoy drinks and a hog roast.

According to Vicky, during the meal attendees were treated to an inspirational talk by former Great Britain international goalkeeper and director of Mercian Hockey Simon Mason.

Vicky said: “Simon discussed his journey to where he is now, choices that we make in life and about success (as well as ribbing club coach and former GB international Soma Singh about his past moustaches!)”.

Club member Nick Godfrey then stepped up to lead an auction which included such items as Premier League football and Premiership rugby tickets and holiday home stays in France and Cornwall.

“The evening finished with dancing and safe to say everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves!” said Vicky.

And she added: “Having reached our total target of £50,000 over two years, the club can only wait now for the date that the diggers can start, hopefully before the start of next season to celebrate the club’s 40th anniversary.”

In congratulating Alton Hockey Club on its achievement, Eggar’s headteacher Patrick Sullivan confirmed that the school had also raised significant funds toward the project and was in the process of considering additional funding options and submitting bids, including to the Educations and Skills Funding Agency.

Working in partnership with the hockey club, and with expressions of interest shown in the pitch by Alton College and other sports clubs, Mr Sullivan said of the project: “The pitch will be a fantastic asset for the whole community, providing all-year round sporting facilities and curriculum-enhancing opportunities.

“It will support engagement in sport, not only in our own school community, which includes our visiting primary schools, but will deliver a complete local package for all sports and abilities.”