$3.2m Berhampore stadium upgrade good news for hockey in Wellington
Retired veteran Black Sticks goalkeeper Kyle Pontifex is among those singing the praises of a $3.2 million upgrade of the National Hockey Stadium in Berhampore, Wellington.
The stadium's third artificial turf was officially opened by the city's Deputy Mayor, Paul Eagle, on Saturday.
The new pitch has been eagerly awaited by the sport, with strong demand meaning the two original Berhampore turfs are being used at full capacity.
The number of hockey players in the region has grown by 35 per cent over the past seven years to reach 15,000.
"It's fantastic to see the new pitch here and it's a great tribute to how Wellington Hockey has managed to grow the game," Pontifex said after Saturday's opening.
"To be competitive as a region you have to have top quality facilities and getting the third turf is the key to that for Wellington."
Pontifex, a Wellingtonian who made 176 test appearances during his international career, said having a third pitch would be good for the sport in general but especially for elite hockey.
"Hopefully we'll see that translate into some more Black Sticks [from Wellington] and hopefully we'll get to host more test matches and tournaments here."
Pontifex's sentiments were shared by Wellington Hockey chief executive Trafford Wilson who described the stadium's expansion as a significant milestone that would make a "huge difference" for both players and spectators.
Wilson agreed the third field would help attract more high-profile hockey games to the region."
As well as the new turf, the upgrade included adding LED floodlights, expanding and improving car parking, adding new player shelters and changing rooms.
The LED lighting was a first for a Wellington sports field and was expected to cut long-term electricity and bulb replacement costs significantly.
The council contributed $2.1m to the project, with an additional $1.1m coming from Wellington Hockey and grants from the Lotteries Commission, New Zealand Community Trust and Lion Foundation.
The council said it had spent a further $2.7m in the past year upgrading eight other sports fields and three pavilions.
Eagles said the upgrades meant Wellingtonians could play sport year-round without disruption due to field closures and with better facilities at pavilions.