TEN months from today, the dream of seeing Sir Ben Ainslie’s America’s Cup base in Portsmouth will be a reality.
Work starts now on the Olympic sailor’s team headquarters, which will go ahead at the Camber dock in Old Portsmouth after prime minister David Cameron yesterday unveiled £7.5m of government funding for the project.
Sir Ben joined Mr Cameron, city MP Penny Mordaunt, Gosport’s Caroline Dinenage and minister for Portsmouth Michael Fallon in Downing Street to talk about the plans and show images of how the base will look when it is built.
And after receiving confirmation of the £7.5m of government funding needed to get the project off to a start, Sir Ben told The News Portsmouth would be its home.
He said: ‘A lot of that funding will go towards us being able to build our base in Portsmouth.
‘We are very grateful for the support of the local residents and the council to have the permission to build this base.
‘Now we’re really excited about the future and being able to make a real difference in Portsmouth to operate in the city and put something back in to the local economy, create jobs and, most importantly for me, to try and inspire young people to get into sailing.
‘We’re very excited about this announcement today, about the future, and about being based in Portsmouth.’
The investment from ministers will be supported by an additional £1.4m from Portsmouth City Council.
The headquarters will initially employ about 90 people, with more potential jobs in the supply chain.
It will become the focal point for the design, construction and development of the team’s boats and will also provide sports science and fitness facilities and a visitors’ centre.
Ministers say the project has the potential to bring significant economic and sporting benefits to the UK, particularly for Portsmouth and the wider Solent area.
A recent report on Team New Zealand suggested that its base in Auckland created 1,000 jobs and brought an $88m boost to the local economy.
Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt said Sir Ben’s decision to choose Portsmouth cemented the city’s status as the maritime heart of the UK.
She said: ‘It will provide such an amazing boost to the local economy, to skills, to aspiration in the city and is really going to help with this effect we’re trying to have on the maritime sector in Portsmouth.
‘The city can be very proud. I think with the events at the tail end of last year the city’s pride was hit but there can be no doubt today we are the maritime heart of the UK.
‘Sir Ben is coming to Portsmouth because of our heritage, skills and enthusiasm and our maritime legacy.’
Upon hearing about the plans, Mr Cameron gave his backing to the project and said: ‘Sir Ben’s project is truly fantastic news for Portsmouth and the Solent.
‘It will not only build on Portsmouth’s global reputation as a centre of marine and maritime excellence but will also deliver a sporting and economic boost to the UK.’
To read The News’ view on this click here.