A junior high school’s £500,000 synthetic hockey pitch is still lying idle six months after its planned handover date – with a team of experts called in by the Education Authority to examine the quality of the work.
The News Letter has learned that no matches, or training, have taken place on the Killicomaine Junior High School state-of-the-art pitch in Portadown, which was planned to be operational for the autumn term.
A statement from the Education Authority said: “In February 2015, the Southern Library and Education Board (now known as the Education Authority) confirmed the award of a capital works contract for installation of a 2G sand-dressed hockey pitch at Killicomaine Junior High School. The agreed completion date for this contract was June 2015.
“Following an inspection of the pitch on December 15, the Education Authority (EA) has sought an independent specialist to test the pitch and prepare an assessment report against the original contract specification. The primary focus of the EA is to ensure that the pitch facility is available for handover to Killicomaine Junior High School as a fully functioning 2G synthetic sand-dressed pitch completed to Federation of International Hockey (FIH) standards.”
David Thompson, chairman of the Killicomaine board of governors, said: “In my view, the authority has acted correctly. In the meantime, our hockey teams have had to put up with our present 25-year-old facility which, in wet weather, is tantamount to a flooded paddy field.
“Killicomaine JHS is proud of the achievements of its hockey teams which have brought much honour to the school and to Portadown. We are extremely grateful that the education authority provided us with this facility, but we cannot use it until it is signed over and the authority is satisfied.
“We are hoping that the issues will be swiftly resolved and the first game can be played early in 2016.
“The headmaster Mr Hugh McCarthy has had lengthy discussions with all the parties involved, and we are hoping for an early resolution.”
The pitch seemed to be ready in the summer, with politicians queuing up to be photographed on it – and Portadown Hockey Club saw it as a superb addition to local facilities which include the synthetic pitch at nearby Eden Villa Park arena.
Upper Bann MLA Sydney Anderson, who fought hard with the former education board for the facility, said: “It really has been a crushing disappointment. Hopefully the assessment work will sort things out. Everyone concerned is bitterly disappointed at the delay.”