Footballers joined business and political leaders in Holbeach for the official opening of a new £650,000 state-of-the art sports complex for youngsters and the community.
The ribbon was cut on Friday for Holbeach United Community Sports Academy at the end of a seven-year project to provide a centre of excellence for young footballers in the town and surrounding villages.
Ex-Norwich City, Blackburn and Celtic striker Chris Sutton did the honours, along with former Holbeach United academy footballer and Fleetwood Town defender Danny Andrew, Holbeach county councillor Nick Worth and Ashley King whose building company built the academy.
Academy vice chairman and trustee Stuart Clark said: “We’ve been talking about this academy for seven years and for the past three years, the five trustees and all the committee have been spending hours and hours on putting the academy in place.
“With the help of Ashley King and his company (Ashley King Developments), we have worked tirelessly to fund and build these amazing, new, purpose-built sporting facilities which we hope will form the basis of our thriving youth football club.”
The academy is built on 15 acres of land donated by Mr King’s father, John King, as a legacy after his death in October 2010.
‘We’re really pleased, very, very happy, we hope the academy will be well-used, looked after and will be here as part of my father (John King’s) legacy.”Ashley King, owner of Ashley King Developments
His son Mr King said: “My late father was quite keen on any activities linked to the Holbeach community, in particular football and youth football.
“It was quite a lengthy process to deliver the sports pitches on land we own at Pennyhill and after he passed away, I wanted to make sure it happened on behalf of the family.
“The trustees of the charity have been very supportive and we’re really pleased, very happy, we hope it will be well-used, looked after and will be here as part of my father’s legacy.”
High praise for the academy came from Mr Sutton who said: “This is just a unique facility and, quite frankly, I’ve never seen anything like it - both the detail in the building and out on the pitches.”
The official opening of Holbeach United Community Sports Academy on Friday is the result of a united effort by a team of people from the area.
Coun Nick Worth, Lincolnshire County Council member for Holbeach and executive member for culture, said: ”This academy has tidied up an area of Holbeach and transformed it into an area of junior pitches for young people in the town.
“It’s a huge step for Holbeach and the young people of Holbeach.”
Meanwhile, South Holland District Council chairman and member for Holbeach Town Francis Biggadike said: “It’s a fantastic achievement to these premises up and running because it’s been a dream for a long while.”
Prospects from the academy, where teams from under-sevens to under-16s are based, have the chance to progress right through to the first team.
Holbeach United manager Darren Jarvis said: “Every town would be proud to have a set-up such as this and it only bodes well for both Holbeach as a town and Holbeach United as a football club.
“I’m really keen to see how the youth section develops senior players.”
Assistant boss Tom Roberts added: “This just overtakes any other local club in the area and is on par with the set-up at Wisbech St Mary’s.
“It’s a fantastic facility and if you can’t attract kids to come and play on surfaces such as this, then you have some issues because it’s superb.”