Footballers in Paisley will have a new all-weather surface to play on when the new season kicks off later this summer – after the pitch at the Ferguslie Sports Centre was relaid.

Renfrewshire Council funded the pitch upgrade as the first stage of a £7.7m project to transform the facilities at the nearby St James Playing Fields over the next few years.

The work at the Ferguslie facility – just off Blackstoun Road – saw the replacement of the previous surface, which had been in use for more than 15 years.

It had its big-match debut at the weekend when it hosted the annual No Substitute for Life football tournament – organised to raise awareness of issues surrounding suicide – with hundreds turning out for the popular 7-a-side event.

The new pitch was paid for from a budget set aside for a wider investment at St James over the next few years to include improved grass pitches, a synthetic hockey pitch, and a new pavilion and changing facilities, plus improved access road and car parking.

There will also be work to develop the site to host large-scale outdoor cultural events from the expanded programme of festivals and cultural activity expected over the next few years.

The St James investment is itself part of a much-bigger £100m programme to transform Paisley’s cultural venues as part of the legacy of Paisley’s bid to be UK City of Culture 2021.

That includes the £42m project to turn Paisley Museum into an international-class destination based around the town’s unique textile heritage and collections, major internal redevelopments of Paisley Town Hall and Arts Centre, a new learning and cultural hub on the High Street, and investment in town centre public spaces and transport links.

Among the spectators at the No Substitute for Life event was Councillor Lisa-Marie Hughes, chair of Renfrewshire Leisure, which operates Ferguslie Sports Centre and St James Playing Fields.

She said: “The new surface is looking great and it was good to see it in use at the weekend – particularly for such a well-attended and important event as No Substitute for Life.

“The investment at Ferguslie means there is a new surface available in that area while we develop the plans to upgrade St James.

“The council is investing in our sporting facilities now and over the next few years because we value the importance of healthy lives but also as part of the ongoing work to make the area a more attractive place to live, work and invest.

“As well as becoming a top-class sporting destination, St James will also be able to host large-scale outdoor cultural events – such as gigs or music festivals – which complements the investment in our historic town centre venues and attractions.

“That work is in turn part of a much bigger effort to use what makes Paisley and Renfrewshire unique to sell the area as a destination and drive new footfall to our town centres.”