The executive director of Brighton & Hove Albion Football Club has expressed confidence in its new £29m training base at Lancing, which is set to deliver a vital economic boost.
Martin Perry welcomed the state-of-the-art site off Mash Barn Lane, which is expected to bring up to 100 jobs and see a number of firms bid for construction contracts over the next two years.
Significantly, the club has confirmed the scheme is making an investment of £1.3m towards additional sporting facilities within Adur to support emerging talent.
This is scheduled to include a new floodlit all-weather football pitch, potentially located next to the Sussex FA headquarters at Culver Road.
While the scheme has endured criticism from some residents, who fear increases in traffic and concerns over the recent removal of reptiles at the site, Mr Perry said the club was eager to develop a good relationship with its neighbours at the Lancing site, which was approved last month.
He said: “This development will increase the prestige of the area fantastically with these state-of-the-art facilities – there’s a huge amount of positives from it.
“The facility will have a community-use agreement and subject to availability it will be open to the public, with times that they are able to visit.
“Wherever possible, we want to work with local companies for our contracts, with firms such as Graham Wood (from Lancing) supplying steel to the stadium and other companies including Adenstar at Shoreham Port involved as well.
“There will be other companies from the area bidding for the training ground contracts and we’ve got Worthing firm NSure doing our insurance.”
Regarding the community legacy, Mr Perry believed there was a genuine commitment from the club to provide funds for wider sporting development.
His colleague Barry McLaughlin, of Albion in the Community, also believed the new site would have a considerable positive influence.
He said it would only serve to help strengthen some of its key ongoing engagement activities such as its Want to Work scheme. During the past year, this has seen more than 30 people gain employment as either apprentices or genuine work placements.
Mr Perry added: “Part of the deal for the Lancing site was the provision of a significant amount of money for sporting facilities in the area including an all-weather pitch. There will also be money for other football and sporting clubs, so they should be approaching the council to see how they can access that money.
“We’ve had some great feedback from residents on the new site. I was walking through Lancing and one store owner told me how great it was that we were coming here and asked if we’d use them as a supplier – well, that’s exactly the sort of thing that we will be looking to do.
“There have been concerns over traffic, but the fear of what is going to happen is much worse than the reality. It’s not going to be like at the stadium, where we have 20,000 people there every week.
“The relationship we have built with the neighbours there has really been good and we’d like that in Lancing. There will be some disruption during the construction period, but we will keep that down as much as we can.”
He added: “A lot of people have asked us why we didn’t choose a site in Brighton – but the fact is there are not many 40-acre locations around and Lancing was attractive to us for a number of reasons. One of the main ones was the fact that we attract fans from across the whole area, not just Brighton, so to have facilities in places such as Lancing is a good thing.”
On its sporting merits, Mr Perry said he was ‘delighted’ with the response which fans had shown towards its Amex site, which has been reflected in annual average attendances of well over 20,000 per game.
This has seen the club seeking an extension to its seating capacity by several thousand as it drives towards its eventual goal of gaining a hallowed place within football’s Premier League.
The club is in no doubt as to the overall value which the new training facilities would add its fortunes, with manager Gus Poyet extremely enthused by the development, which is expected to be completed early in 2014.
Mr Perry added: “This training site is massive for Gus Poyet – he needs this facility in order for us to move on as a team and help young players develop and get them playing the way he wants them to.
“It will also help in terms of attracting new players to the club and could make the difference in signing them when they see the facilities that we have.”