Non League Daily

Community Value At Consett's New Belle View

In a Durham town made famous by Phileas Fogg, the surrounding community are benefiting immensely from Consett AFC’s new Belle View Stadium.

This £3 million venue was launched in November and has rapidly become a vibrant hub of activity for people of all ages.
We spoke to Consett. chairman Frank Bell, who has been involved in local football for more than 30 years. He began by outlining the reasons why his Northern League club moved home.
“Our old ground at Belle Vue Park had been in use for 63 years and was really out-dated,” said Bell. “It had also become a prime site for development by Durham County Council, who wanted to create new leisure facilities. So they offered to help us relocate less than a mile down the road.
“The council provided £2.5 million towards the new stadium. Then my wife and I put almost £250,000 into the funding ourselves. Carillion PLC were the construction company for our new venture and we sourced most of the football equipment from Harrod UK Limited.”
Belle View Stadium has created a host of new opportunities for Consett Indeed, Bell stressed that the whole complex is key to his club’s burgeoning business plan.
“Our community aspect is huge now and we are trying to do as much as we possibly can to support the local people,” he said.
“Our main pitch is floodlit and has a 3G synthetic surface. Former England international Peter Beardsley turned out in our official opening match for a Newcastle United XI on November 22 and he said it is the best pitch he has ever played on.
“The synthetic turf means we can accommodate all our teams at the main ground. Apart from the first XI and reserves, we have 37 junior sides plus ladies’ teams. A grass pitch can only be used a couple of times a week - assuming you have good weather - with several matches being postponed each season due to waterlogging, snow and frost.
consett“But now we can have up to 280 of our junior players training in perfect conditions at any one time on the 3G pitch, which can be split into eight five-a-side sections.
“For spectators at matches, we have two grandstands with a total of 400 seats plus additional covered standing.
“The first team dressing rooms are state of the art and include a medical room. We have four additional changing areas for youth and community use on four grass pitches that we utilise outside the main arena. The local Consett & District Sunday League has 30 teams and they use these pitches on Sunday mornings.
“Our clubhouse is called ‘Bar 1899’ in recognition of the club’s foundation date. It features a function room of 170 square metres, catering for up to 200 people. This is served by our full commercial kitchen, which is equipped for everything from five course meals to finger buffets.
“Fifteen functions have been booked so far, including five wedding receptions. On top of these events, we are able to hold conferences and meetings for nearby businesses.
“We have partnered up with a company called Smart to provide training courses at the clubhouse for subjects such as first aid, manual lifting, sports coaching, plus health and safety. This is to help unemployed people find jobs in the local area and get them back to work.
“Also, we have been talking to the local athletics club to give them a chance to use our facilities and they have around 180 members who can become involved here.
“On the footballing side, we have our own Elite Academy headed up by ex-Hartlepool United player and assistant manager Micky Barron, who has UEFA ‘B’ coaching qualifications.
“In addition, we have links with Newcastle United FC and their football foundation. They are working closely with us to stage coaching days at our ground for children from five up to 16 years old during the school holidays.
“We signed up with Sunderland AFC’s Foundation of Light too. Again, they will be delivering coaching courses to the local kids as well as educational programmes/lifestyle requirements.
“Meanwhile, Sunderland College are working closely with us to offer Sports Scholarships. These are three year courses for 16 to 18 year olds which lead to them becoming qualified coaches who are able to work in the sports and leisure sector.”
So a fantastic new facility for Consett and as the man who put his money where his mouth is, how does Bell feel about the initial impact of Belle View Stadium?
“There is no role than being chairman of a football club! From watching four year old kids being coached on our 3G pitch to loudly cheering the first team in Northern League action.
“It is easy for a chairman to put cash into the dressing room to attract players. But my approach has been to invest in the infrastructure of this club.
“I want to create sustainable income on a long-term basis. We couldn’t achieve this goal at the old ground as the facilities were antiquated.
”However with our new income streams now, we can further invest in the amenities. We have plans to incorporate additional grandstands within our stadium and also add more facilities for the outside pitches.
“What we have created here is absolutely amazing! We had more than 3,000 spectators for the Newcastle United XI opening match. That was a marvellous evening and the huge crowd made it all worthwhile as I had only managed three hours sleep in the two days before the game!
“When the local people turned up and backed us in those numbers that night, it made me very emotional. The community have been wonderful in their support for us. They understand what we are trying to do and achieve here.
“I believe I have done the right thing in helping to create the new stadium and I am very pleased with it. If I was given the opportunity to do it all again, I would – absolutely 100%! I’m just so happy with the outcome and Consett AFC now have a really bright future.”

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