Pontypool United rugby club have glimpsed the future at their Memorial Ground home – and it’s brighter than ever before.
That’s due to the power of new, state-of-the-art floodlights recently installed at the venue which hosts 11 teams all the way up from mini sections to the senior first XV.
The club were successful in a bid to the Be Active Wales Fund, administered by Sport Wales and aimed at providing sports clubs with a sustainable future beyond the current Covid-19 lockdown.
“When we put the new lights on for the first time, it was as though up until then we had been playing by candlelight,” says club chairman Mark Jones.
Pontypool United – a club that set Wales internationals Dan Lydiate and Lloyd Burns on their way to playing for their country – had been suffering from gloomy times. Their old floodlights were no longer up to the mark.
Fitted back in 1983, they were good for their day, but in severe need of an upgrade for a club who provide playing opportunities for hundreds of people in the community.
They were inefficient, too, with bills of up to £2,000 every time a bulb needed replacing.
But now, thanks to a £30,000 award, they were able to install £41,000 worth of high-tech LED lighting to illuminate the playing and training areas.
Fitted by a Welsh company based in Talbot Green – Floodlighting and Electrical Services – the lights have shown there is, literally, light at the end of the tunnel as far as the pandemic is concerned.
“The new lights are unbelievably good and it means that for the next 20 or 30 years we are completely up to scratch as far as lights go. That means we can provide more games and playing opportunities for more people,” adds Mark.
“All our own teams will benefit and it means we can also attract other matches here with representative teams for the likes of Monmouthshire.
“In the past, they would liked to have come here but the lights just weren’t good enough. The quality of them now is quite unbelievable. I can see the daffodils on Mars!”
The club’s youngest players are aged just six, whilst the oldest registered player is 46. In between are 260 other players and all will now benefit from the brighter days ahead.
Not only is the playing area now safer and more likely to improve ball skills, but it has illuminated training areas next to the pitch so that some sessions can be moved away from the main surface.
That should help the condition of the pitch, especially in wet weather.
Club secretary and funding co-ordinator Alan Williams is also a happier man as the investment should prove a sound one in the long term.
“We won’t be using up so much energy when they’re being used, so the long term benefits are obvious,” says Alan.
“There have been times when we had to be quite frugal with the lighting on the main pitch in the past because of the costs, so this is going to be transformational.”
Now, all that’s needed is for the players of all ages to return to the field and bask in the bright new glory.
The club’s first team play in Division One East of the Welsh Rugby Union’s National Leagues and although those leagues have all been shelved for this season, the club are optimistic about the resumption of some form of rugby later this year.
“A lot of people are negative about grass roots rugby, but this club was thriving before the lockdown came in and we think we can thrive again,” says Mark.
“There is still huge interest and enthusiasm for rugby among youngsters, without a shadow of a doubt, and it’s important that all clubs now work hard to get ready to welcome them back whenever that might be.”
There may be no rugby as yet at Pontypool United, but things are buzzing – even if it’s no longer the sound of an old floodlight bulb about to pop.