‘It’s been a total rollercoaster’ – huge relief as work finally starts on Moneyfields FC stadium redevelopment after Covid pushes costs past £5m mark
The pandemic has contributed to pushing the total cost of the Moneyfields FC ground redevelopment to over £5m.
The John Jenkins Stadium complex in Copnor - including two 3G pitches - was expected to total roughly £3.5m.
But costs have risen during a ‘rollercoaster’ ride over the past 18 months, pushing the price up to around £5.2m.
Finally, though, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Visitors to the ground, on Dover Road, in recent months will have seen ongoing work regarding the construction of new houses.
Now, piling work has started on building the new clubhouse which will be in the middle of the two pitches.
The stadium - named after Portsmouth D-Day hero John Jenkins, who passed away in December 2019 - will be owned and run by Pompey in the Community, the charitable arm of Portsmouth FC.
Moneyfields, who have given up ownership of the land in a bid to secure their long-term future, will pay what chairman Pete Seiden calls a ‘peppercorn’ rent to PitC.
The club’s first team, reserves, women’s team and youth teams will all play at the ground, while Portsmouth Women - currently playing home games at Havant & Waterlooville FC - will also be based at the stadium.
There will also be new community facilities, including classrooms, a gym, fitness suite, boxing centre, community café and bar.
PitC chief executive Clare Martin said: 'I think where people have been talking about it, Moneyfields have been talking about it for five or six years now, it's almost like, 'we're off'.
'We're actually doing it and we're still hoping that by next autumn it'll all be finished.
'It is a total relief. It's always one of those things, you have the aspiration and you think you can do it, but there was Covid and everything else.
‘It was more of a challenge than ever getting that sort of money.’
The final piece of the financial jigsaw came when Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced his recent budget. As part of a £20m ‘levelling up’ boost for Portsmouth was a whopping £986,000 towards the John Jenkins Stadium development.
Other cash has come from the Football Foundation, Pompey Supporters Club, The Eisner Foundation, PitC reserves, the Beneficial Foundation, the Football Stadia Improvement Fund and Veolia.
Portsmouth City Council - in the shape of loan funding - have also contributed financially.
'We're not there yet because that is simply just to get the frame and the building done,’ Martin added. ‘We've got to fit it out and all of that, so we've still got lots of work to do.
'But, for me, as long as we can start playing on those pitches that will be amazing.
'There are things which are completely out of our hands. Covid has put prices up, labour costs up - it has been just over £5m for a little while now.
'Every morning I'd come into the office and go, 'oh, it's not going to happen,' and have a little meltdown.
'The next week something would happen and we'd be more positive.
‘It's been a total, total rollercoaster the whole way through. It's been hard.
'There are just such a lack of facilities in the city.
‘The FA, they do a pitch strategy, so they know how many pitches are in different areas.
‘Their report showed a seven-pitch deficit in Portsmouth which means if they built seven 3Gs in Portsmouth they'd all be full. This is just two towards that.'
Seiden insisted the development has saved Moneys, who earlier this year withdrew from the Southern League for financial reasons, from potentially going under.
‘It was either shut up shop and walk away or hope we would get the planning permission,’ he said.
‘We’ve basically given up ownership of the land to save the club, to ensure we’re sustainable for ever.
‘We’ve given up a valuable bit of land and there was no deal until we were happy with the terms of our lease.
‘We’ve got a long-term lease without the burden of bills or upkeep, and we’ve got a good partner in PitC.
‘Everyone is a winner, including the overall community - I don’t see any losers.
‘The houses are progressing well, and it’s good to see the club is now progressing as well.’
Seiden estimated it cost around £40-50,000 a year to keep the facilities at Dover Road going.
‘It might have looked ok on the inside but the roof leaked, nothing worked,’ he remarked. ‘If we took £1,000 at the bar one day we’d spend £1,200 having to unblock the drains the next day. It was a false economy.
‘It was a decision we had to take. There are around 100 shareholders of Moneyfields Sports & Social Club and I was praying they would vote to do the deal (to give up ownership of the land).
‘The voting was unanimous. They voted to safeguard the future of the club.’
The new facilities should all be completed by September/October 2022. If needed, Moneyfields will ask to play their opening games of next season away.
Additional reporting by Simon Carter