Widnes Vikings, Select Security Stadium Halton, Lower House Lane, Widnes, Cheshire, WA8 7DZ
Widnes Vikings have played and trained on the latest generation of artificial grass pitches since they re-entered Super League in 2012.
The pitch is known as the 'i-Pitch' and was installed at the Stobart Stadium Halton in time for the club's pre-season training in December. The RFL worked with the club and the pitch manufacturers to ensure it met the required standards for rugby league.
Steve O'Connor, Vikings Chairman said: "This is a first, not just for the Vikings or rugby league but for sport as a whole. The i-pitch at Stobart Stadium Halton will modernise the game and create a fantastic match day experience. Our members and visitors will be able to see more games, it will create a pathway for our young players and it will be utilised as a community resource. We are working with our partners at Halton Borough Council and have exciting plans to transform the i-pitch into a 7-a-side football sports facility throughout the week. This will generate income for the club and the stadium.
"It is my vision for people to be able to 'keep on the grass' after the game and enjoy community and family/fun activities. It is absolute nonsense to have a stadium and not be able to access the pitch for 90% of the time.
"Denis Betts and the team have been training regularly on a similar surface over the last few weeks and we have received some great feedback. We need to dispel the myth of grass burns and safety issues, technology has vastly improved in recent years and this simply doesn't happen! It will also reduce the risks of cancellation through frozen pitches."
Ralph Rimmer, RFL Chief Operating Officer said:"Not only is it a ground breaking decision by Widnes Vikings, it is also a huge leap forward for the sport and another example of rugby league taking a first step in history of sport in this country.
"The benefits that accompany artificial grass pitches are numerous. Not only do they provide clubs and teams with a consistent playing surface which will help reduce injury occurrence and improve player performance, due to longevity of the surface Widnes will be able to host Academy games on their main pitch prior to any Super League games without worrying about surface deterioration, which will encourage fans to watch the next generation of stars coming through the main ranks."
Cllr Phil Harris, Halton Borough Council said:"The introduction of the very latest artificial pitch technology at the Stobart Stadium Halton will allow the Council to significantly increase community use of the pitch, as well as providing Widnes Vikings with a new pitch to support their re-entry into Super League.
"The Stobart Stadium Halton is a community facility and we will use this opportunity to offer increased use of the pitch to the local sporting community and others such as schools. This re-engineered pitch will help make a positive contribution to improving the health and well-being of a wide range of people.
"Halton has always been at the leading edge and this first for rugby league will not only reduce the Council's maintenance cost but will create a real opportunity for the Council to generate new income that can be reinvested back into the community."
The pitch was manufactured by DESSO sports systems and installed by J.Mallinson (Ormskirk) Ltd.