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It was October 2010 and we suddenly found ourselves unable to use the sports facilities at the Drakensig Sports Complex due to a complicated series of events that we will not go into here. Southern Cross had, up until this point, been totally dependent on the use of these facilities to offer sport at the school. How on earth were we going to continue offering a full sports programme?
Well, the people who have made-the-path-by-walking-it that is Southern Cross Schools are nothing if not resilient. This includes the many driven and incredibly hard working parents who are members of the SCS Parents Association (PA). After a survey of all parents and a strategic planning workshop involving the school community, held at the end of 2010, a decision was taken to build our own sports fields.
Making the decision to build sports fields was clearly a very bold one, but in all honesty it was the easiest part of the process. Fortunately, we have had a core of people with a very clear vision of what is required. Leading the charge has been Mr Jurie Moolman, the chairman of the SCS PA, and although he will be the first to admit that he knows squat about sport or sports fields he has been instrumental in getting the project off the ground.
Financing the project was obviously going to play a major role in getting the process going. This is where Jurie and his PA have come to the party in a big way. They have held and continue to hold very successful fundraisers to pay for the on-going development of the fields. Golf days, talent auctions, aeroplane parties, quiz evenings, fun walks, jazz concerts and selling virtual plots on the field, you name it, they do it to rake in the shekels that will make this project a success.
It took eight months after deciding to build the fields before the ground was broken to begin the actual building process. In this time the exact location of the fields had to be determined and then surveyed. A full costing of the project had to be undertaken and the environmental impact assessment had to be completed. By the end of June 2011 we were ready to start work on the bush clearing of the site. This process was done by a team of ground staff lead by Mr Donovan de Boer, the bush lore teacher at the school at the time.
By mid-July enough clearing had been done to get the earth moving machinery in and work began to level the area. Despite the area looking quite level, there was a five meter drop from the highest corner to the lowest corner that had to be levelled by means of cut and fill. In this process the top soil was first removed and stored before the levelling was done. Once level the top soil was returned and spread evenly on the surface in preparation of planting grass.
Reaching this particular stage of development brought some interesting challenges. Grass needs water to grow, lots of it. This had, of course, been thought through already and the plan was to use the water from the school’s grey water management system to irrigate the fields. All water used by the school is recycled via a series of ponds which eventually empty into a storage dam on the main drainage line that passes through the school property. A pipeline was laid to the fields and a submersible pump installed. At this point the late Mr Ian Harper, the designer of the school’s grey water management system, was appointed to manage the grassing of the fields. Before the end of 2011 grass had been planted and by the beginning of 2012 a green flush could be seen across the surface of the field. Of course, much of the green was the result of wild grass seeds germinating. Fortunately, there were also many vibrant little sown grass seeds germinating and so the process of weeding out the unwanted grasses and phorbs began.
Throughout 2012 the process of establishing the grass cover on the fields and building gabions to secure the banks of the fields continued under the watchful eye of Ian Harper. There were some real highlights in 2012, one of which was the first mowing of the field and the first sports match played on the field. Sadly, the field was also the venue for a very emotional memorial service in honour of Ian Harper, who died tragically in an accident involving the school bakkie while he was collecting material for the further development of the field. After Ian’s death Mr Dave Giles and Mr Kevin Godding stepped in, volunteering their assistance in keeping the development of the fields on track. They continued to help with mowing, irrigating, managing staff and applying growing medium until earlier this year when Mr Hugh Lownie was appointed as the school’s estate manager.
The fields are not complete yet. We still need to build a turf cricket pitch in the centre. Ablution facilities, a tuck shop area and seating are planned and being fundraised for. There is still a great deal of work to be done, but the dream that informed the vision of SCS having its own sports fields is fast becoming a reality. This became very clear on Saturday 25 May when the College hosted soccer and hockey teams from PEPPS Polokwane in a full set of fixtures. It was extremely special to witness fabulous inter-school sport taking place on our very own sports fields. It was also delightful to hear parents commenting that they could hardly concentrate on the sport because of the magnificent view from the field. Isn’t it fantastic when a plan comes together? Thanks to all who have made this extraordinary dream a reality.
There is obviously still a great deal to be done and I am sure that there will be many more people involved in the process. One thing is very clear though, these sports fields are already one of the school’s most treasured facilities and many great events and activities will take place here.
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