By George Bond
Durham University have recently agreed a deal with Hartlepool United Football Club that will bring significant improvements to facilities at both Maiden Castle and the Racecourse.
The university have provided Hartlepool, who currently lie 18th in League Two, with two pitches to train on for the past few years. Instead of the two pitches adjacent to Maiden Castle reception, Hartlepool have now moved to those available at the Racecourse site.
All college sport teams will retain access to the Racecourse cricket outfield, home to women’s football, as well as the smaller football training areas around the edges of the main pitches.
Teams are now also able to use the main Maiden Castle grass pitch inside the athletics track, with the first college level matches having taken place here over the final weekend of January.
This pitch, which will be known as the Track Pitch for scheduling purposes, will be converted into a rubber crumb facility over the coming summer. This move, part of the wider rebuild of Maiden Castle, will provide sports such as football, rugby, American football and lacrosse with a third all-weather pitch to choose from. It is hoped that this will not only reduce the number of postponed fixtures, but also limit the workload on Maiden Castle’s grass pitches.
First Aid provision for Durham University students will also improve. This is down to more fixtures taking place at Maiden Castle, which, unlike the Racecourse, is staffed by trained first aiders at all times.
Hartlepool were initially due to move to their new facilities in July, due to concerns over training regularly on an artificial surface. However, new manager Dave Jones, appointed on January 15th, was eager for an immediate switch, resulting in the deal being brought forward by six months.
As part of the deal, Hartlepool will also make a financial contribution to the university, which will be put towards minor renovations of the Racecourse pavilion and changing facilities. These were increasingly in need of repair, with the renovations ensuring that college sports such as squash and fives can continue at the Racecourse site for the foreseeable future.
The deal continues a long-standing positive relationship between Durham University and Hartlepool United, whose respective sports science departments have seen multiple benefits from combined ventures in recent years. Several Durham students have also gone on to play for the Hartlepool first team, including as recently as last summer, when goalkeeper Ben Dudzinski joined the ranks at Victoria Park.
Photograph: Sally Lanora Svenlen