A city football club is revamping its ground. And thanks to help from local firms and the community, it’s going great guns. Ellie Pilmoor reports.
When football club Baffins Milton Rovers started fundraising for a new stadium, they never expected to get so much help in building it.
The Hampshire Premier League team decided at the beginning of this season that a new stadium was needed so they could grow as a club.
Despite being champions of the league last year, the team could not be promoted due to the ground not meeting the required standard.
So joint-manager Louis Bell, along with other manager Lee Newport, decided the club needed somewhere new to call home.
The new ground, off Eastern Road, would have cost around £100,000 but thanks to Football Foundation funding, the club only needed to find 30 per cent of the money.
Louis, 51, says: ‘At the start of the season, we started looking at possible grants and funding to help us build the new ground.
‘The Football Foundation grants seemed like a great option. They have paid for 70 per cent of the ground’s cost but that meant we still had to find £30,000 which is a lot of money.
‘But the support from the community has been great.
‘We never expected to have so many local businesses offer to help us out so we can get the ground up and running for next season.’
The stadium will have a 120-seat stand as well as changing facilities and ticketing office with barriers to get in and out.
And it will have floodlights which will be installed if the club gets promoted at the end of this season.
They cost £40,000 and a further grant would be needed to build them.
But this has not disheartened Louis, from Havant, who says the club is in a great position both for the stadium and for promotion.
‘We are getting along well both on and off the pitch,’ he adds.
‘It is a tribute to some of the players who have been helping out with the stadium during Saturday mornings and then playing for the team Saturday afternoons.
‘Players who sit on the club’s committee have been really involved in the plans and they care about the club and its future.
‘But that is what this project has been about.
‘Everyone has come together from the club’s committee to businesses who want to help out.
‘We have had good sponsorship from a number of firms like Kendalls Concrete who are next door to the stadium.
‘They have been fantastic for us.
‘They have helped us out with concreting, storage and with information on the land in that area. So they have been second to none.
‘We will probably name the stadium after them.’
Other firms who Louis said have contributed lots are Cosham Plant Hire and Pro-Roofing Solutions.
Between them, the local companies provided equipment like diggers to build the paths and manpower to get the stadium built quickly.
It is hoped it will be open by the end of the month.
He adds: ‘We have begged, stolen and borrowed to get this stadium built.
‘Everyone has worked really, really hard around the clock.
‘People behind the scenes have been looking at other grants we can apply for as well as other ways we can fundraise like community days and that sort of thing.’
And Louis hopes the new stadium will be first step in a bright future for the club.
He adds: ‘This stadium is the first big step for us a club.
‘Once we have a decent stadium, we can grow and ensure a great future for the club.
‘One day we hope to use the stadium for soccer schools or other events for the community.
‘We have a 50-year lease from Portsmouth City Council for the site and we want to use it as much as we can.
‘Obviously we want to walk before we run but we are looking to the future.
‘Once the stadium is established, we can look at forming new teams and taking on more coaches.’
At the moment, Baffins Milton Rovers has a first team and a Sunday league team, both for men.
But Louis said the club want to expand to have under 18 teams to encourage more youngsters in the area to take up football.
‘We are looking at what Portchester did for inspiration,’ says Louis who used to manage Portchester before he moved to Baffins Milton Rovers.
‘They have transformed as a club over the past few years and are now playing in the Wessex League, one league above us.
‘They have got great facilities and a good ground. They have done that just through the hard work of the committee.
‘That is what we have been trying to do.
‘If we carry on working hard like we have been, we can get promoted and be in that league too.’
WITH the new ground, the sky is the limit.
That is how much the new Baffins Milton Rovers stadium means to those involved in the club.
Over the past few years, the club has grown from a Sunday League small, city football club to a team fighting for promotion every season.
Baffins Milton Rovers would have been promoted to the Wessex League last season but their stadium did not meet the criteria needed for that league.
But with their new home set to open at the start of the 2015/16 season, promotion is very much on the cards.
Club volunteer Karen Tyrrell says: ‘With the new home ground, the sky is the limit.
‘This club has changed hugely over the past few years and the new ground is probably the biggest change in its history.
‘But it is great for everyone involved, especially the players who have worked hard on the field.
‘It must have been frustrating for them to be so successful yet not be able to progress up the leagues.
‘It is great to see that things are looking brighter both on and off the pitch.’
She adds: ‘This is a community club and we pride ourselves on being one.
‘We want to give as many young people as possible in this area the chance to play football and be a part of a close-knit team.’
Cash from The News
TO FUND their new stadium, Baffins Milton Rovers applied for a number of grants.
One of the funding options they were successful in was The News’ Cash for Communities.
They were one of 20 groups and organisations in The News’ catchment area who won money to help fund a specific project.
Baffins Milton Rovers was awarded £29,706 to help build new changing rooms, spectator toilets for men, women and disabled people and cafeteria facilities.
Yvonne Fradgeley-Smith, secretary of the club, praised The News and the grant.
She says: ‘Without that money from The News’s Cash for Communities grant, we would have the bare bones of the stadium.
‘Thanks to that £29,000 we were able to get the facilities needed to really make it a great ground for the future.
‘We were able to get changing rooms, including ones for the referees, as well as a cafeteria space and new toilets.’
Baffins Milton was given the grant in October 2013 and club volunteer Karen Tyrrell said it was a great day for the team.
She says: ‘It was fantastic that the club won the £29,000 grant.
‘We will be able to generate extra income from the canteen, so this will really help to make the club sustainable for the future.
‘We’re all really thrilled.’