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Andover College Football Academy to move in to Portway Stadium
AFTER 18 months in hibernation the Portway Stadium, former home to the defunct Southern League Andover FC, is to be revived and brought back into use by Andover College as a community based football academy.
Jointly funded by Andover College, Test Valley Borough Council and Hampshire County Council the college, merged with Sparsholt College who already run and maintain a complex near Winchester, are to shake hands on an initial ten year lease at the end of this month which will shortly after act as a catalyst for a whole raft of alterations and upgrades to the 24 year old stadium which has suffered through a lack of investment and is in urgent need of a complete overhaul.
Test Valley BC undertook an extensive exercise to bring forward bidders to ensure the stadium gained a new lease of life and security for its long term future. Councillor Tony Ward, Leisure and Wellbeing portfolio holder said: “We were determined to keep the site as a sporting asset for future generations to enjoy, following its previous demise. This agreement will ensure that the ground can once again host matches at a senior level, as well as providing a resource for budding new players. We are currently also in negotiations with footballing bodies with the aim of raising a contribution towards bringing the facilities up to modern standards in addition to contributions from HCC and TVBC directly.”
Andover College’s assistant principal Stuart Barlow, who has led the stadium negotiations said: “Although Andover College will be taking over the running of the Portway Stadium, it will be football across Andover and the wider community which will benefit. We want to improve the football training provision of the college and support a range of competitive opportunities to inspire young players and teams in the area.” Mr Barlow was speaking on Tuesday morning as news of just how the stadium will look was revealed. Upon the lease agreement going ahead work will begin at once to bring the playing surface up to standard in preparation for the 2013-14 season in August. It is believed there will be a team entered in the Hampshire Premier League, one step away from the Wessex League Division One which currently includes Andover New Street, Whitchurch United and StockbridgeFCs with the intention of providing football at the highest level possible.
Currently the floodlights are not on the immediate agenda as they are not a requirement for the Premier League but Dave Tasker, Head of Community and Leisure Services at Test Valley Borough Council said: “This is to be a substantial investment for us and besides the lights, the main building needs fundamental changes with new electrics, alarms, boilers and plumbing. The lease will give the college time to establish themselves at the stadium and hopefully the new arrangement will lead to the go ahead from the Premier League ground graders.”
Since the stadium closed in July 2011, speculation has been rife as to what the cost would be to get it up and running again and while Test Valley BC has not released any figures before the agreement is finalised, a starting figure of £250,000 may not be a conservative one.
Dave Tasker added: “There are a number of funding sources available and we are very optimistic, particularly regarding the floodlights but they are dependent upon what standard football will be played there and on the surveys which will have to be done in line with Health and Safety.”