HUNDREDS of children are set to benefit after the opening of Widbrook United’s new sports pavilion.
The £289,000 development has seen the club’s previous facility completely redeveloped and modernised.
Chairman, Keith Turner, said: ‘The new facility is absolutely brilliant. This development is essential as it provides a safe environment for children to prepare for games. The previous facility had 14 changing rooms which were small and cramped and weren’t fit for purpose.’
With more than 300 children across all age groups and 50 adult players, the club hopes the new facility will allow Widbrook to continue to develop.
‘This will enable our club to grow massively but the facilities will benefit the whole area as it will enable us to host regional events and tournaments,’ added Keith.
The club now has the security of a 25-year lease on the new council-owned facility.
Havant Borough Council community sport and leisure officer, Simon Hasted, said: ‘The changing rooms used to be cold, damp and uninspiring. It started a year ago when the club approached us to improve the facility. This new development will hopefully inspire more people to want to play. It is the first stage in a five-year plan to get more children in the local area participating in sport. We hope it will attract an extra 150 players.’
The new pavilion includes six large changing rooms equipped with new hot showers, toilets, tactics board and treatment table. Also housed within the pavilion is a meeting room and new cafe kitchen with outdoor serving hatch.
The funding for the renovation was provided by Havant Council, the Football Foundation and the club themselves.
Hampshire Football Association played a key role in securing a £203,451 grant to enable the plans to become a reality.
Hampshire FA facilities and investment manager, Sasha Nicholas, said: ‘It has been a really good partnership. Our key role was in securing the £200,000 grant from the Football Foundation. In addition to the pavilion, some of the funding has also been used to provide new goals and improve playing surfaces. This is the type of facility that we should have everywhere if we want the game to develop. It will undoubtedly benefit the club by helping them to attract new players.’
To supplement the grant, the council also contributed £86,000. The remaining money was raised by the club themselves to contribute to items such as the tactics boards and identity plaques.
‘We did a number of sponsored events, including a bike ride to Brighton, and also held club nights and cake sales,’ explained Keith.
The pavilion was officially opened by the Lord Mayor of Havant, Cllr Peter Wade, and under tens players Harley Harris, aged 9, and Jamie Walker, also 9.
Harley said: ‘The changing rooms look really nice and I am excited about playing here.’
Jamie added: ‘We have the best facilities in the league. Other teams will be jealous.’
A key focus for the club is to develop girls football. Current ladies senior team captain, Jade Turner, said: ‘This is a massive difference to our old pavilion and it is something we can all be proud of. Hopefully it will help to get more girls involved.’