Heritage met cutting edge as Jim Gordon cut the ribbon to formally open the new Leeds Rugby Foundation 3G all-weather pitch at the Kirkstall Training Complex, which will also be used by Milford Marlins.
Jim, the grandson of former Leeds Headmaster Archie, after whom the famous ground is named, was accompanied by his son Phil and granddaughter Chloe and a host of sponsors, civic dignitaries and players and coaching staff from Leeds Rhinos and Leeds Carnegie.
Also in attendance, amid a host of children from local community clubs and schools who were given specialist training drills on the newly laid surface, was Leeds Rugby Foundation Vice President, actor Matthew Lewis, Life President David Oxley CBE and club President Harry Jepson, OBE.
“It is a wonderful and very proud day for the family because my grandfather and Arthur Thornton and Trevor Vernon-Harrison really believed in making life differences through sport, which is very much the motto of the Leeds Rugby Foundation,” said Jim before wielding the scissors. “That’s why Children’s Day was formed 91 years ago by him and it is wonderful that the Foundation have resurrected it recently.”
Leeds Rugby Foundation Chairman Paul Rowson, paid tribute to the hard work that has been undertaken and support offered from various agencies to bring the project to fruition.
“It has been a huge period of transition for the Foundation and as we move into a brave new future, this facility is testament to the talent, commitment and dedication of the LRF staff,” he noted.
“What gives us such a massive advantage is the involvement of the players and the coaching staffs, way beyond what could reasonably be expected. There were over 700 visits by the Rhinos into the community over the last year, they open the door into young people’s lives and are truly role models.”
“The Archie Gordon project has been a real challenge begun by Chris Rostron who drove it forward and with the help of Leeds City Council, the Rugby Football League Trust, the RFU for the provision of floodlights and the Caird Bardon Community programme, we’ve made it.”
Leeds Rugby Foundation’s newly appointed Manager Lucy Young added, “We work in the heart of the community delivering projects that make a lasting and positive impact on people’s lives. We are working in assemblies, with children who are on the verge of being excluded to re-engage them in school right through to 65 year old men who need a bit of help to learn how to live a healthier life.”
“It is a vast range and a really exciting time and this fantastic facility will enable us to do even more and give more people greater opportunities.”
Leeds Rugby Chief Executive Gary Hetherington added an historical context to the proceedings. “This is another momentous day for the Kirkstall site in what has been a remarkable 13 year transformation and includes the pitches on Abbey Fields,” he said.
“The vision was shared by Councillor Bernard Atha which set us on the way and when we see the amount of users on the site every day, it is truly heartening. For those in the community to be able to rub shoulders with the professionals is absolutely fantastic.”
“It has taken seven years to bring this all-weather pitch to fruition. At the start the odds would have been 100-1 but through perseverance and key support, it has been delivered.”
He continued, “It is fitting that we should have three generations of the Archie Gordon family represented, I used to play here and the name was synonymous with sport county-wide.”
“The pitch was originally dedicated to his memory in 1956 and he was a truly inspirational character; he would have made an outstanding trustee of the Leeds Rugby Foundation. His name will live on but now at a modern, state of the art ground.”