‘Overwhelming’ moment as first bricks are laid in £5.2m John Jenkins Stadium redevelopment that will be home to Portsmouth In The Community, Portsmouth Women and Moneyfields

A bricklaying photo opportunity marked a big moment in the history of Portsmouth In The Community.

By Simon Carter
Tuesday, 15th March 2022, 4:17 pm

PITC chief executive Clare Martin was at the Moneyfields FC ground in Copnor this morning to see the progress being made in a historic £5.2m redevelopment programme.

After laying a brick as television cameras rolled, Martin said it was a ‘quite overwhelming’ moment in her 21-year career at PITC, the charitable arm of Portsmouth Football Club.

The brick laid will be part of a two-storey clubhouse which will sandwich two full size artificial football pitches at the John Jenkins Stadium, named in honour of the city’s D-Day veteran who passed away in 2019 aged 100.

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Building work at Moneyfields, both in terms of housing and the John Jenkins Stadium redevelopment.

PITC will be landlords of the venue, with Moneyfields having given up ownership of the land - which they bought for £275,000 in the mid-1990s - in exchange for a long-term lease that guarantees their future.

With Moneyfields having finished their home fixtures last weekend, the builders are now ramping up their work - both on the new facilities and the housing (14 flats, 12 houses) that forms part of the development.

No-one will be allowed to move into the houses until the football facilities are completed.

Moneyfields officials are spending this week clearing the site, ready for the diggers to come in next week and rip up the pitch and demolish the clubhouse which had been their home at Dover Road since the early 1990s.

Clare Martin, CEO of Pompey in the Community, laying the foundations of the new John Jenkins Stadium at Moneyfields. Also pictured (from left) Eric Coleborn (Pompey Women chairman), Pete Seiden (Moneyfields chairman), Jay Sadler (Pompey Women manager) and Martin Talman (site manager). Picture: Mike Cooter

In its place will be a state-of-the-art facility that will be home to Moneyfields adult (both men and women) and youth teams, as well as Portsmouth Women - the latter returning to Portsea Island after a spell at Westleigh Park in Havant. PITC teams - including the club’s disability side - will also call the John Jenkins Stadium home.

The pitches are being laid by S & C Slatter, who are one of the major artificial pitch providers in England and who laid the surface at Westleigh Park in the summer of 2020. S & C Slatter won’t start to lay the turf, though, until the clubhouse build is complete - to avoid dust getting into the fibres.

Each week during term time PITC will use the John Jenkins Stadium to deliver coaching and training programmes to more than 6,000 students and pupils – over 36,000 individuals each year.

But it is not just a footballing facility - there will be a gym, dance studio, boxing facilities, classrooms and a cafe/clubhouse.

D-Day hero and Portsmouth legend, John Jenkins

The main pitch will have a several-hundred seater grandstand, as part of an overall capacity of 1,180, while the second pitch - the one nearest Burrfields Bridge - will be overlooked by a balcony outside the second storey clubhouse.

Similar to the Front Lawn venue in Havant’s Leigh Park, the second pitch will have space for spectators to watch but no seats.

The £5.2m project - initially due to cost £3.5m but the pandemic contributed to hiking up costs, as well as delaying the build by 12 months - has been funded by various groups.

The Football Foundation - the UK’s largest sports charity, funded by the Premier League, The FA and the Government - donated nearly £2m.

A John Jenkins Stadium banner at Moneyfields. Picture: Mike Cooter

The best part of £1m - £986,000 to be precise - came from Chancellor Rishi Sunak as part of the Tories’ ‘Levelling Up’ scheme announced last October. In all, around £20m was promised to Portsmouth, including £8.75m for an urban park in the north of the city and £3.5m to upgrade Hilsea Lido.

The Eisner Foundation - the charitable arm of the businesses run by Pompey owner Michael Eisner - donated $350,000 (around £270,000) to the John Jenkins Stadium redevelopment.

PITC themselves raised around £600,000, with Veolia contributing another £64,000.

A further £800,000 loan has come from Portsmouth City Council, while the Pompey Supporters Trust and the Beneficial Foundation - a Portsmouth-based charity - have also donated.

Martin told The News: ‘I have been with PITC for 21 years and it’s always been our aspiration to have our own home.

‘At the moment we’re so disparate - for example, our BTEC course students have to go to Alton 45 minutes away.

How the John Jenkins Stadium will look, with the view towards the main pitch. Picture: Mike Cooter

‘We have had to beg, steal and borrow facilities around the city, but now everything will be in one place it will be so much easier.

‘We’ve always been looking, but there’s always been reasons why not - geese, funding. There’s not much space on the island.

‘We thought we might have to go off the island, but the kids who need it the most sometimes can’t travel.

‘Our staff have pulled together so much, this (the John Jenkins Stadium) will make their jobs, I wouldn’t say easier, but a bit more rewarding.

‘When we’ve been looking at running projects before, it’s always been a case of ‘can we do it? Where can we get the facility?’ That problem won’t exist anymore.’

Martin also revealed an emotional side to the stadium being named after Portsmouth’s D-Day hero Jenkins.

‘He was a very special man who we should all aspire to be like,’ she remarked.

‘He started volunteering at Fratton Park when he was 14 and was still a boardroom steward at 96.

‘He always used to bake a dozen cupcakes on a Sunday and bring some over where we’d chat over a cup of tea.

‘My husband doesn’t like attending functions with me as I talk too much, but not to him, so John used to be my ‘date’.

‘Naming the ground after John just works - Moneyfields wouldn’t want to play at a PITC ground and vice versa, so this way we’re all playing at the John Jenkins Stadium.’

Moneyfields chairman Pete Seiden was also present at the bricklaying ceremony. He has repeatedly told The News that the redevelopment has saved his club from going out of business.

Along with other long-serving club officials, Seiden is clearing out what is left of Moneyfields’ belongings this week.

The goalposts have already gone - bought by Meonstoke - while local Hampshire Premier League clubs Fleetlands and Hayling United have bought mowers, rollers and changing room benches.

Another HPL club, Liss Athletic, are buying the floodlights which are, for the time being, still in place.

Seiden said two annual six-a-side youth football tournaments will be held at the new stadium, using both pitches across two days. ‘It would be a coup for the city, the largest such tournament in Portsmouth,’ he remarked. The tournaments will also benefit Moneyfields financially.

While Moneyfields will be remaining on their former site, Portsmouth Women will be returning to Portsea Island.

For boss Jay Sadler, that will be a ‘massive’ moment. ‘This is monumental for the women’s team in helping us to grow,’ he declared.

Pompey Women currently play in the third tier of the English pyramid but have ambitions to progress to the next level, the Championship.

‘This will be the best facility in our league by a mile,’ said Sadler. ‘It will be Championship standard which is where we want to get to.

‘At the moment we train twice a week but we’ll be training three nights when we move here.’

Moneyfields and Portsmouth Women will start their 2022/23 seasons in August, but it is unlikely the John Jenkins Stadium will be completed by then. Almost certainly, all the teams at both clubs will have to play their first handful of league matches away unless they can find alternative ‘home’ venues.

Moneyfields are playing their final two ‘home’ Wessex games at United Services Portsmouth’s Victory Stadium next month, and that could again be an option for the first weeks of next season. Baffins Milton Rovers have also offered the PMC Stadium if needed.

Building work on the John Jenkins Stadium
How they John Jenkins Stadium will look