A new state-of-the-art FIFA football turf in Petone will add up to 600 more matches to the winter football calendar in Wellington and will form the basis for a lower North Island football hub.

The $2 million upgrade of Memorial Park is funded by $550,000 of FIFA Goal Project funding, a $500,000 investment from Hutt City Council, $450,000 from Capital Football with the balance to be made up from community funding or sponsorship.

Work on the redeveloped ground, which will house New Zealand Football’s Central Technical Centre and the headquarters of Capital Football Federation –could begin before Christmas.

Memorial Park will be the third FIFA Goal project to be facilitated by New Zealand Football, following successful turf redevelopments at Auckland’s North Harbour Stadium in 2007 and Canterbury’s ASB Football Park which was completed last month.

“Access to facilities is the major constraint to football’s growth not just in numbers but also in terms of quality,” said New Zealand Football chairman Frank van Hattum.

“Projects like Memorial Park remove that barrier to participation but also act as hubs for the roll out of key Whole of Football initiates that help to keep our kids active as well as develop better footballers in the long term.”

Van Hattum said collaboration with local government and federations was the key to bringing new facilities to life.

“Working with councils like Hutt City, who have been instrumental in developing Memorial Park is essential to the health of New Zealand’s largest participation winter sport,” said van Hattum.

The Mayor of Lower Hutt Ray Wallace said the success of the project was the result of close collaboration among sporting organisations and the city.

“The decision to install the all-weather pitch followed a lot of work by many people and I am very proud of the outcome and I am looking forward to the work getting under way.

“The new turf will be a great asset for the city providing an all-weather facility and a focal point for regional activities.

“Lower Hutt has some of the best sporting facilities in the Wellington region and the new development is a welcome addition.

FIFA Vice President and OFC President David Chung said the project is another example of how FIFA is catering to the specific needs of every national association.

“Across the Pacific, OFC’s 11 members face unique challenges and in New Zealand Football’s case it is evident that the rapid growth of the game is putting a strain on the number of facilities available,” said Chung.

“I would like to thank FIFA for responding to these needs with confirmation that New Zealand’s third Goal project is set to get underway.”

The all-weather pitch will be accompanied by lights and will sit alongside three other full sized pitches. Capital Football Chair Jim Murphy said it will quickly become a regional football hub.

“It really will be a home of football in the region,” said Murphy.

“We’ve had to turn away new teams in some leagues the past because we just couldn’t accommodate the growth, while access to grounds to play or even train on during bad weather has long been a major issue.”

“Memorial Park will be an international standard dedicated football facility, situated at the heart of three of our federation’s biggest districts. It increases overall capacity, allows us to provide more Whole of Football development programmes and have a match-ready facility for national league and Chatham Cup matches or national tournaments.”

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