It was a proud day for the Horowhenua community 20 years ago when it grabbed national attention for building a two-storey sporting pavilion in just 48 hours. Horowhenua Chronicle reporter Paul Williams looks back on that achievement and what it has done for the sport in the area.

Flashback to the winter of 1999: Levin woman Mary Davis, secretary of Horowhenua Hockey Association, opens a letter from Hockey New Zealand telling them they were to host a test series between India and New Zealand.

It was great news - a rare international sporting event for the town. There was one minor problem though. While there was a world-class playing surface with the recent laying of an artificial turf, there were no facilities to go with it.

No sooner had the new playing turf opened came news they were to host an international fixture within weeks. Something had to be done. Cometh the hour ...


Dave Colling, who was deputy mayor of Horowhenua at the time and involved with hockey, had a vision that a pavilion could be built in 48 hours.

He visited the local radio station to drum up publicity and called a meeting of tradespeople he thought might want to support the idea. Scores of tradesmen and businesses pledged their support without hesitation.

Electricians, plumbers, builders and handymen all came out of the woodwork. Most had little to do with hockey but wanted to be part of something special. Wind had hit the sail.

The Horowhenua Sports Turf Trust, formed in 1995, had originally toiled hard to raise money to construct the artificial turf, going against advice from some quarters that the region was too small to warrant a surface of international quality.

The advice was that a cheaper sand-based surface would be more appropriate. But the association pushed on, and it was Colling who came up with idea of selling signage at the ground to local businesses.

It resulted in $90,000 raised from the three-year signage deals, with the fourth year free. When businesses, like Graeme Bagrie Contracts who carried out groundwork at cost, came on board, the turf started to take shape.

Work on the turf started in February 1999, and with a boost from of a $50,000 sponsorship deal from Roger Halliwell from R.J. Liquorice, it was finished by June.

Then came the build-up towards the weekend. Levin businessman Bill Crighton, from whom the pavilion took its name, pledged materials for the building.

The roof was built in the carpark, overseen by Ross Crowe, and two cranes began hoisting it into position not long after midnight on Saturday morning. It took a couple of attempts, with a large crowd watching on in frosty conditions.


A cheer went up when the roof was in place at 12.30am.

Davis said local radio station announcer Terry Watt formed a team called "Terry's Angels" and the Horowhenua Chronicle editorial staff were brilliant with their promotion and coverage.

"The support of the radio station and Horowhenua Chronicle working together was fantastic. They made T-shirts with Terry's Angels written on them," she said.

Her husband Brian Davis, who was site co-ordinator, said he remembered the last sheet of gib board going on the ceiling upstairs. As the builders nailed it in place, the electricians put the last of the lights in and flicked the switch.

"It was a magical moment," he said.

Watt at the time said, "This is unbelievable, a community event like no other."

Someone realised that no gib-stopper hadn't been organised. The call went out, and within an hour there was a man at work on the plaster.

Catering businesses joined in to make sure everybody was fed. There was round-the-clock food and drink available ... hot sausage rolls, cakes, fresh scones and muffins.

There was an All Blacks versus Springboks match at 3am that Sunday morning. A big screen TV was brought in. The All Blacks won the match 34-18 in Pretoria.

With the large number of tradesmen at work there were few incidents of injury. First aid was on hand, with a "bad cut, a minor cut, and a splinter" needing attention.

Davis said it was a weekend the community could be proud of.

"I can remember going into the supermarket on the Tuesday after the event and hearing people talking about it in the next aisle," she said.

"It was as if you weren't part of it, you had missed out on something special and the amount of people who came down over the weekend was phenomenal.

"To sum it up, this was not something that was done for hockey but it was something positive in Levin at the time and I feel that is why everyone got behind it."

Workers put in long hours and at times were so enthusiastic they had to be told when to go home.

Brian Davis said it was a pleasure to be on site. "We had no hassles, everyone just worked alongside each other like one happy family."

It was just the fifth turf of its kind in New Zealand at the time.

By 8am on Sunday morning the building work was mostly done and usable, although there was still the cosmetic work like the laying of carpet and linoleum to come.

The following edition of Horowhenua Chronicle said as tools began to be put down, a "tired and emotional Colling said the whole community could feel proud of what it had achieved".

"The new turf and pavilion would benefit the community time after time for many years to come."

The new turf resulted in a hockey explosion. Before the work there was an estimated 230 people in town playing the sport, that number more than tripled soon after with the introduction of business house leagues that attracted 24 teams.

Participation continued to swell with more than 1000 people now using the turf, from hockey's various grades to business house competitions at night, with the food and bar facilities open.

Mary Davis said it wasn't just the sport of hockey that benefited that day.

"Looking back, it wasn't something done for just hockey, but it was something positive in Levin at the time and I feel that is why everyone got behind it," she said.

Meanwhile, the turf was re-surfaced in 2010 with a grant from HDC and other fund providers.

HDC set aside $25,000 each year per annum in their annual return for turf replacement, and two separate applications for this were included in the long term district plan.

Davis said resurfacing costs were estimated at $400,000, and was done with funds in hand and with assistance.

The turf lighting system was also upgraded last season with assistance of One Foundation ($50,000), Eastern and Central Community Trust ($15,000), The Southern Trust ($10,000) NZCT ($10,000), and $30,000 from HDC from the replacement fund.

Next target is to upgrade the dug-outs and replacement of the deck surface.

Davis said an invitation was extended to the public to celebrate the achievement this Saturday when local side Levin hockey (MCOB) play Massey premiers.

It was a timely match, as it was the first time in history that a local side had made the final.

The curtain-raiser was between Horowhenua U13 boys Hatch Cup team against Manawatu starting at 11.30am.

Davis said the Horowhenua Sports Trust and Horowhenua Hockey Association were welcoming the general public and all those involved to the ground for the game to support the local team and reminese