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New facility is a football dream turned into reality

PUBLISHED: 11:05 02 June 2010 | UPDATED: 17:00 01 July 2010

David Cuffley

Norfolk FA chief Shaun Turner looked on proudly as a state of the art £½m football centre was opened in Norwich yesterday - the realisation of an idea he penned on a scrap of paper three years ago.

Norfolk FA chief Shaun Turner looked on proudly as a state of the art £½m football centre was opened in Norwich yesterday - the realisation of an idea he penned on a scrap of paper three years ago.

England World Cup keeper Robert Green performed the official opening of the refurbished former PowerLeague complex at Bowthorpe, which could be used by up to 3,500 players per week by this time next year. Norfolk FA acquired the site last summer and, working with Norwich City Council, transformed it into the Football Development Centre with nine floodlit "third generation" synthetic pitches, including one "Wembley" show arena, changing facilities, a function room and licensed bar.

The cost has been met partly by grants, including £156,907 from the Football Foundation and £29, 311 from the Norfolk Youth Fund.

Turner, chief executive of Norfolk FA, said the project was part of their four-year strategy launched in 2008.

He said: "We started negotiating for this in January 2009, but May 2007 is when I first wrote down on paper that I wanted to have a football centre. It was literally an aspiration on a piece of paper. It's taken over my life for the past 15 months but for one reason - just to give local football a state of the art facility. We've invested a lot of money, changing the pitches, ensuring the community can access it. It has a really diverse usage. We still run county fives programmes here, the small-sided leagues, club development, youth club development, local hirers - absolutely anything is here now."

The centre is open 14 hours per day from Monday to Thursday, 11 hours on Fridays and three hours on Sunday mornings. City College Norwich has become the official partner of the FDC for the next three years.

"We have a footfall of 2,500 per week - and we're hoping for 3,500 by this time next year," said Turner. "In general terms, the whole project came in at just under half a million - a good investment and a fantastic achievement for grass roots football in Norfolk."

Green's appearance to open the centre was an added bonus for Turner.

He said: "Me and Rob went to school together and we've stayed in touch. I'm really delighted that with everything that's going on, he found time to open this. What is great with Rob is he realises that grass roots football is why he is where he is today."

Green was impressed, saying: "It's a tremendous thing for Norfolk FA to introduce into the community. If this can encourage kids to improve their football, I'm sure it will prosper in Norwich in a footballing sense as well as in a community sense. It's ironic I'm here to promote grass roots football when it's not grass that's out there!"

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