KEMPSEY Shire Council is turning the lights well and truly on, announcing on Thursday the completion of their project to install and upgrade floodlighting at sports fields to allow night-time training and competitions for local rugby league, soccer, cricket and AFL clubs.
The ovals upgraded as part of the $1.62 million project are Verge and Eden streets, Jim Stirling Oval and the South West Rocks sports complex.
The funding was provided by the NSW Government's Stronger Country Communities Fund (SCCF) and ClubGRANTS program, with contributions from Council, Football NSW and AFL NSW/ACT.
State member for Oxley, Melinda Pavey, explained the lighting upgrades are apart of a community effort.
"This has been something, since I've been elected, that the community has been fighting for - better playing fields, more professional courts," Member for Oxley, Melinda Pavey, said.
"This is all about taking Kempsey sport into the next century, there's a lot of people in this community that have fought very hard for it and I'm delighted to be apart of a government that's helped fund it."
Under the project, four 25m lighting towers have been installed on Jim Stirling Oval to enable night training and games for AFL and cricket.
Lighting has been upgraded at the Verge/Eden Street complex and South West Rocks playing fields for soccer, rugby league, AFL and cricket.
The fields previously had no lighting to cater for night-time events.
Using the latest technology, the sports field lighting can be turned on or off remotely by Council and approved sporting clubs via a smartphone app.
"Anyone who's been a volunteer in community sport knows how tricky it is - someone loses the keys or leaves them at home and to have this app with all the right sort of security and having the right people accessing it to turn the lights on and off and not relying on council staff is a game-changer," Pavey added.
Kempsey Shire Council Mayor, Liz Campbell, said the upgrades provide light at the end of the tunnel after the affect COVID-19 has had on the sporting season.
"This is a celebration, the sporting calendar as we know it has changed dramatically and for clubs to be able to come back now and particularly at night, that's a really good thing," she told the Argus.
"The response from clubs has been fantastic, the relationship with them has been terrific as well as the relationship with the state government because without the confidence the state government has in us to invest in our sport this wouldn't happen."
Mayor Campbell added the importance these upgrades will have in improving participation levels as clubs come out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The projections were, from this lighting, the re-development of Verge street playing fields and the upgrades that we're doing at South Kempsey and South West Rocks, should increase participation and we'll have more of a focus on sport for old, young and everyone in between," she said.
With competitions like the Coastal Premier League, Mid North Coast Cricket Premier League, Group 3 and Group 2 Rugby League, North Coast AFL and Mid North Coast Rugby Union, sport is played collectively throughout various towns and cities existing near the Pacific Highway.
Pavey says having these communities close together provides better sporting opportunities with these upgrades only enhancing them.
"If you look at the pacific highway, how much closer our communities are now together, having professional sporting fields up and down the highway creates opportunities for regional sport, night time sport and other games and these communities are very proud of their participation in Cricket, Rugby League, Netball, Australian Rules and other sports. So having professional facilities allows players to perform at their best and it's a great opportunity to showcase the lifestyle the Macleay Valley has," she said.
Bigger scale events in the region are a goal for local and state government with Coffs Harbour to host the Sydney Sixers January 4 next year.
"That (bigger scale events) thinking is behind a lot of the redevelopment of Verge street, a lot of community leaders and volunteers in community sport have always thought Kempsey could play a much bigger role in regional sporting activities. The money for the lights as well as the further development of Verge street is going to make that possible," Pavey added.
The $10 million dollar re-development of Verge Street sporting fields is estimated to be around 3-4 years away from completion.
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