An indoor football pitch with artificial turf – small-town football club realises its dream
To ensure that the growing number of enthusiasts could train year-round, Ostrobothnian football club Esse IK decided to set up a company to construct an indoor football pitch. As a result, interest in the sport has skyrocketed in the small town of Ähtävä. Other sports clubs in the municipality can also use the venue.
Only a few years ago, many families in Ähtävä spent many winter evenings and weekends driving their kids to football practice at the crowded venues in neighbouring municipalities. The drive to the nearest indoor pitch was 30 km, and clubs from out of town could only book the venues for late hours.
Esse Idrottsklubben recognised the challenges of training during the winter, particularly for the youngest members but also in terms of the club’s opportunities for expanding its operations and fostering future football stars. The club began to cultivate the idea of constructing an indoor pitch of its very own in Ähtävä.
“Previously, the club used to pay rent for practice hours at other venues. We got to thinking: what if we used the same annual sum on our own venue? We were confident that other local sports clubs and the municipality would be interested in renting the space, because others were also faced with the same shortage of places for organising practice sessions,” says Filip Vikström, who was responsible for the finances of the project.
Surprised by sponsor interest
A separate company was established to coordinate and carry out the building project. Best-Hall, which was known to be a reliable constructor of these types of venues, was contacted at a very early stage.
“We had heard good things about Best-Hall’s projects and wanted a solid partner for this investment that was extremely important to us. They had a wealth of knowledge of similar projects, which was obviously very helpful along the way”, Vikström recalls.
The construction grant received from the ELY Centre required the company to build a venue with a fixed structure. Best-Hall’s streel-structure building with a cover of PVC fabric was a perfect match. Sports venues intended for public use also require special design and FISE-certified expertise, which all Best-Hall engineers have.
The last concerns related to the investment evaporated when the company witnessed the enthusiastic involvement of the local community.
“We ultimately needed a loan to cover only one-third of the costs. The rest we accumulated from share capital, sponsorships and subsidies. The positive interest far exceeded all of our expectations,” Rasmus Vikström, one of the driving forces of the project, says happily.
The bright and spacious venue garners praise
The first practice session at the venue, which was dubbed Esse Elektro-Kraft Arena, was held in September 2017. The building was, in fact, already standing in the spring, a mere few months from the order confirmation following the municipal building permit issued in December.
“Winter is perfect for constructing a venue for the next indoor training season. Cold temperatures and snow are no hindrance to building activities, and due to our less hectic schedule, the necessary advance planning can be handled swiftly”, says Managing Director Leif Fagernäs, who represented Best-Hall in the project.
In contrast to the original designs, the company established to develop the venue decided to opt for a double-layer cover to improve thermal insulation – by proposal of the designer.
“The solution is excellent, since the white roof significantly improved the lighting conditions and comfort inside the venue. Thanks to the interior cladding, it has been very easy to attach sponsorship ads to the walls, which is very important to us”, Rasmus Vikström says appreciatively.
Based on the first winter, the development company has been very pleased with the venue, which has been praised by locals.
“We have seen a genuine football boom in the area, and there has been plenty of demand for practice hours. Alongside football, schoolchildren also use the venue for Finnish baseball and pensioner groups use it for Pétanque. The 30 x 60 metre pitch is also well suited for badminton and volleyball, for example. In fact, we intend to develop our operations to serve a more diverse variety of sports and provide more year-round services”, Rasmus says with regard to the company’s future visions.
In hindsight, the drivers of the project have only one concern:
“Had we known how well everything was going to go, we would have ordered a slightly wider venue that would have fit a larger pitch suitable for eight-on-eight football for juniors”, Rasmus Vikström says in summary.