DETAILED: Andy Cullen reveals full extent of Portsmouth's 'exciting' vision for Hilsea training ground - and delivers Danny Cowley playing budget promise

Andy Cullen has revealed the extent of Pompey’s training ground ambition – and insists Danny Cowley’s playing budget will not be slashed to fund it.

Friday, 25th February 2022, 4:55 am
Andy Cullen insists Danny Cowley's playing budget will not be reduced to cover scheduled work at Roko and Fratton Park. Picture: Chris Moorhouse (jpns 280621-36)
Andy Cullen insists Danny Cowley's playing budget will not be reduced to cover scheduled work at Roko and Fratton Park. Picture: Chris Moorhouse (jpns 280621-36)

Work is underway on a significant renovation of the Roko venue the Blues purchased in June 2021 for £2m.

The Copnor Road base has served as their training home since December 2014, initially on a long-term lease.

Now the Blues own their training ground, with Roko to be rebranded as the Pompey Health And Fitness Club in May following the completion of major improvements.

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Since June 2021, Pompey have owned their training ground home in Copnor Road. Picture: Chris Moorhouse

The gym is already undergoing a major overhaul of its existing facilities, focusing on the spa, swimming pool and changing room areas.

Further down the line, Pompey have plans to relocate all offices to the existing Roko building, including introducing a dedicated gym for players, and creating an analysis suite and medical facilities.

While a new 3G pitch and dome are also pencilled in as fresh additions to their training area.

According to Cullen, the costs will be ring-fenced – and not impact upon the manager’s budget as he strives for success on the pitch.

Pompey’s chief executive told The News: ‘Membership numbers are pretty good post-pandemic, with more than 2,000 in the gym.

‘Ultimately, one of the reasons for wanting to operate the gym longer term was that it will provide a profit which can then be reinvested into the training ground itself.

‘The work being carried out (at Roko), coupled with the purchase of the property, and the £11.5m into the stadium, obviously there has been a bit of capital investment.

‘However, it is all ring-fenced. Michael (Eisner) has been very, very keen to get the point across that none of those affect the playing budget in any way.

‘They are two separate things, but are there to sustain the football club over the longer term.

‘Longer term, it’s about utilising the site to its best ability and making the improvements – and we are starting with the building.

‘If we get that right and generate the membership, that will, in turn, generate and increase profitability from that operation, which is there to benefit the football club.

‘It is very similar to how the hotel and the arena at Stadium MK sustain the football club.

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‘We have so much under-utilised space in the gym and, longer-term, want an area inside where we can house first-team offices, create an analysis suite and medical facilities.

‘We want a small, dedicated gym for exclusive use by the first-team, Academy and, I would like to think, the women’s team as well.

‘That obviously means you then don’t have the need for the Portakabins, which releases more space to develop the site.

‘We are trying to explore whether we can get some alternative services down there, potentially a 3G pitch and maybe a dome as well, so we can bring more of the midweek facilities for Academy training back into Roko and on-site.

‘We will never have enough land on that site to have every match-day Academy game going on, there simply isn’t enough space in terms of pitches. Although if you had some of the adjacent land, then you’d actually create that situation.

‘As a short-term solution, we have got hold of one of the old PlayFootball pitches and created a seven-a-side pitch, which allows the Academy to play 4-5 games and have some evening training.

‘Longer term, we are looking to develop that part of the site, while over the summer there'll be some changes to the Academy pitch (pitch 4), with new dug-outs and new standing areas for parents to watch the game.’

Danny Cowley last week raised the issue, having become frustrated over the quality of their playing surfaces at the Hilsea venue.

Meanwhile, extensive work is continuing at Roko, with a scheduled May completion date.

He added: ‘When we bought the site, I don't think the building had received a lot of TLC over the last few years or investment, probably because it was up for sale.

‘So we inherited quite a few problems, particularly with the swimming pool and spa areas. The equipment was also a bit tired, while some of the other areas could do with proper work in terms of some of the structure.

‘If you go into most gyms, you will find the spa adjacent to the swimming pool, whereas at Roko the spa is on the first floor and the swimming pool on the ground floor.

‘It’s a weird situation where there’s no real connectivity between the two areas, you have to travel between floors to use them.

‘We actually found the whole spa area was a real health and safety conundrum and closed it with immediate effect the day we took over. It was one of our first decisions, walking around you could see things were not as they should be.

‘We are going to put the investment in, moving all the spa facilities, such as sauna, steam room, etc, down to the area immediately adjacent to the swimming pool so everything is connected.

‘Another issue is the female changing rooms are on the first floor and the men’s on the ground floor – with the swimming pool area on the ground floor. We’re going to reconfigure all the changing rooms, so they are adjacent to the swimming pool, which makes it easier for everybody to access them.

‘We expect all that work to be completed by May, with it being rebranded as the Pompey Health And Fitness Club.

‘We will be employing a management company to run the building. We need expertise, people used to operating gyms and can drive it forward with their experience and knowledge, connections and networks.

‘With the combination of the new facilities going in, the new management company to help us drive it forward, the new equipment, and long-term vision of the building for the football club, it’s an exciting project.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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