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Club News

Ambitions for The Bowl

6 July 2013

A development brief for The National Bowl has gone to public consultation.

The brief outlines five options for future use of the area and two options include an MK Dons Team Base Camp (training ground).

MK Dons Chairman Pete Winkelman has vowed plans for an MK Dons Team Base will: 

- Enhance the Bowl as an iconic UK and International music venue.

- Enable Milton Keynes to offer a Team Base Camp for the Rugby World Cup 2015. This will provide a real physical legacy from the tournament that will benefit a number of sports and enhance MK’s ability to stage future International Sporting Events with ease.

- Ensure the ‘green’ nature of the Bowl is maintained and enhanced by developing buildings and facilities that are sympathetic to the surroundings and that provide a world-class venue for performers and athletes alike.

- Enable MK Dons to develop a facility that will enable them to attract the best players available at all ages thus giving MK’s young people the very best opportunity to play sport at the highest level through its Academy and, eventually, in to the first team.

- Ensure that the future of Cycling at the Bowl is assured.

- Increase the capacity of Woughton on the Green Sports Ground pitches for community activity by virtue of the relocation of the First Team and Academy.

In developing the plans Pete urges supporters and MK residents alike to respond to the Council’s consultation and asks for the public to forward their thoughts to the Club as well so that the Club can consider the responses and continue to improve its own plans.

mkdons.com spoke to Pete Winkelman to get a brief idea of his intentions for The Bowl.

The Council’s consultation for the plans for The Bowl have started - two of the proposals include an MK Dons Team Base Camp, can you explain how it is involved and what your ambitions are?
We are really pleased that the consolation process is going on, there has been a bit of a hiatus while the new body of Milton Keynes takes over all of the land and we are very pleased to see two of our proposals in that development brief. I really want to make sure everyone has a look at this because it could be a fantastic facility for the city of Milton Keynes. 

Things like the Rugby World Cup give us an opportunity to have big international, elite teams coming to Milton Keynes and this is our chance to go and build something which can become the legacy for the Football Club and it will deliver that much-awaited training ground. 

So what is involved in your plans for The Bowl?
Well, the first thing I want to say to everybody is that I am a great believer in the cultural value of The Bowl. It has hosted some of the greatest events Milton Keynes has seen over the last 30 years and I think that ability to host big cultural events needs to be at the heart of what we do. What we do by building the training ground facilities there – with the changing rooms, indoor area, offices and everything else – we provide the exact facilities that The Bowl needs to host those big events.

Just like the stadium, where we make the asset work as hard as possible, we can do something at The Bowl which will not only give us 365-day use which is really important for the area, but of course also have the ability to host one or two fantastic events in the summer.

How important is a Team Base Camp for the Club?
What a Team Base Camp gives to Milton Keynes is that opportunity to host elite sports people from around the world, starting with that big opportunity with the Rugby World Cup, but because of our georgraphy most international matches that are played in the country could easily have a team based in Milton Keynes which I think would be great in terms of the economic s of the city.

For the Club, it is the thing that we have needed ever since we have been in Milton Keynes. I was very naive, as people well realise, when I came into Football – for me it was all about the stadium. We had to have a stadium because without it there would be no football but actually when you have a Football Club, where the players go to work is so often at the training ground. 

We have been very fortunate to be at Woughton on the Green and we share that facility with some great sports clubs in Milton Keynes but the difference is we are a professional sports club and therefore we need facilities that have an exclusivity and a quality that can really help develop out players and that goes through the Club – from nine years old upwards. 

Once we can get the facilities to the quality we want them to be, then we can put in the infrastructure with the stadium and the training ground which will mean this Club has every opportunity to have huge ambition for the years ahead. 

I am really excited by what it can do not just for football, not just for our community football but actually all sports in Milton Keynes. When you combine that with Badminton England’s ideas for The Bowl we are really turning that International Sporting City concept into something very real and very tangible.

You have touched on it slightly about how your plans will affect some of The Bowl’s commitments but how will it affect the commitments to the Badminton, the cycling and also the concerts?

As I said, concerts are very, very important to our plans. I don’t think there will be a huge number of concerts, the market isn’t there anymore. If there is something smaller, we are much more likely to do that in the stadium. When there are 60,000 people at The Bowl it is a very magic and special place, many people’s first memory of Milton Keynes will be from attending a concert at The Bowl. 

The football and sports facilities will actually enhance our ability to compete in hosting those kind of events, but they are only going to be one or two a year and that means The Bowl is under-utilised for 350 days of the year, and what a Team Base Camp can do there is combine all those facilities together and make something that really works for the benefit of Milton Keynes.

Cycling has been at The Bowl for a long time now; they have some fantastic events there. Our plans will allow cycling to be able to continue to develop their sport – we even have our own cycling clubs now in conjunction with Milton Keynes Cycling. I think it is something that can be joined up and we can benefit from that together.

The bonus to having The Bowl would mean that Woughton on the Green and the indoor-dome would be freed up for the community to use as well. So there are other bonuses to MK Dons being involved in The Bowl development?

Absolutely, the first team would move off Woughton and making those pitches available again for community projects and we have also made a major £1million investment in the indoor training area which would stay at Woughton and benefit the community. I am very hopeful that our Sport and Education Trust can get involved to make sure we make the most of those facilities for the people of Milton Keynes. These are big thing that we are trying to do. 

People have seen us have a massive dream for the stadium, it has taken me much longer than I ever hoped to deliver it but I hope people will agree that it is of a quality that is consistent with the ambition of Milton Keynes. That is what we want to do to The Bowl – it is an under-utilised asset but I think it is really important to our cultural base but if we can add that sporting facility there as well we can make sure we get that all-year-round use and those benefits can be felt by Milton Keynes and our whole region.

The Council have released the plans for consultation – what is the next step?
I want everyone to get involved here, at the end of the day this is a facility for the people of Milton Keynes. I am very motivated and committed to try and deliver it, I know that is another big task having taken so long to do the stadium but we want to have the infrastructure in place. 

This time, though, let’s get everybody involved, lots of people have an interest who have been to The Bowl for various events, lots of people have been to the football. Let’s have a read of the alternatives, let’s try and give the Council some full consultation, they have asked for it and I would like to be fully-consulted because we could learn something too. If there are things that come out of that consultation which could add to what we are doing, I will listen, I want to do something that is really good and pleases as many people as I can by the time we deliver it. I beg people to go and read the papers, get involved; this is about our city so let’s do something spectacular.

You need the public’s support; you need the MK Dons fans’ support so how do people get involved? How do they tell the Council what they want?
All of the details are on our website and I implore people to go onto the Council’s website, read the documents and complete the consultation response forms and send them to us as well because we want to hear what the people of Milton Keynes want there. 

This is an opportunity for us to go and do something really good. I don’t want it to be average, I don’t want it to be under-used, if we all work together again, just as we did with the stadium, and we can do something really great. I hope people can see my motivation is there to go and deliver something. I want a long-term legacy from the Rugby World Cup and that can come from The Bowl.

To view the Development Brief click here. Have an opinion and want to make it count? Let the Council know by emailing: urban.design@milton-keynes.gov.uk. MK Dons would also welcome feedback on the plans, although the public must contact the Council to officially register their opinion. Let the Dons know by emailing: info@mkdons.com.


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