Ex-stu­dent be­hind school pitch pro­ject

Central Leader - - SPORT - By JESS LEE

Sport has opened doors for An­nalie Longo and she is hop­ing other young sports­men and women will fol­low in her foot­steps.

The Football Fern is sup­port­ing Epsom Girls Gram­mar School’s Lead­ing Women in Sport cam­paign to raise $7 mil­lion to build a world-class sports com­plex for both the stu­dents and the wider com­mu­nity.

The com­plex will in­clude an in­door arena with two full-sized multi-use courts for net­ball, bas­ket­ball, vol­ley­ball, bad­minton and dance, an all-weather mul­tiuse cov­ered out­door arena and three com­pe­ti­tion ten­nis courts.

Longo is an Epsom Girls Gram­mar School Old Girl, break­ing records on the pitch dur­ing her time at the school.

She made her full New Zealand de­but aged 15 years to be­come the youngest Football Fern on record and her ap­pear­ance in the 2007 World Cup at the age of 16 made her the sec­ond youngest player, of ei­ther gen­der, to play at a se­nior World Cup.

Pro­fes­sional fa­cil­i­ties can be the dif­fer­ence be­tween chil­dren play­ing reg­u­lar sport or miss­ing out, she says.

Young ath­letes of­ten face can­celled games be­cause of sod­den pitches.

‘‘It will re­ally make a dif­fer­ence. I re­mem­ber play­ing on this field and in win­ter if it rained it was like play­ing on a big pad­dock.’’

Sport has given her op­por­tu­ni­ties that she might not have had oth­er­wise, in­clud­ing tak­ing up a univer­sity schol­ar­ship.

‘‘I was able to travel the world and to see amaz­ing places while es­sen­tially play­ing with my friends.’’

The school needs some­thing that is bet­ter, or at least on the same level, as pri­vate schools, she says.

‘‘We need a fa­cil­ity that will have multi-use so that we can try to help as many kids at the school as pos­si­ble. Th­ese days I have to travel to the North Shore to train. I know peo­ple would ap­pre­ci­ate an­other al­ter­na­tive that would be open to the top sportswomen and men.’’

Al­bert-Eden Lo­cal Board chair­man Peter Haynes says there is a short­age of sports fields and open spa­ces in the Al­bert-Eden area.

‘‘At the mo­ment we are hugely un­der-re­sourced so we are absolutely de­lighted we will be able to share this won­der­ful fa­cil­ity,’’ Mr Haynes says.

The school has raised $2.65m so far, which in­cludes a $200,000 grant from Auck­land Coun­cil as part of its Re­gional Fa­cil­ity Part­ner­ship Fund.

Stage one of the pro­ject has al­ready been com­pleted with the build­ing of the in­door arena.

The net­ball courts will be re­con­fig­ured to be­come one main in­ter­na­tional-sized court with spec­ta­tor seat­ing in stage two of the de­vel­op­ment to ac­com­mo­date about 1500 peo­ple.

The school hopes this will al­low for the pos­si­bil­ity to host events such as the World Masters Games in 2017.

A fur­ther $200,000 is needed be­fore build­ing can start on stage two of the pro­ject and an­other $4m is re­quired to de­velop the sports arena and courts.

Pro­vided the re­main­ing funds can be raised, the school hopes to show­case the com­pleted com­plex at its cen­te­nary in 2017.

Photo: JESS LEE

Kick-off: An­nalie Longo, a Football Fern and Epsom Girls Gram­mar School Old Girl, is sup­port­ing the school’s cam­paign to build a world­class sports com­plex.

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