A £600,000 scheme to transform the fortunes of a York football club has been given the thumbs up by planners – but the project still has one final hurdle left to clear.
Hamilton Panthers have been granted planning permission by City of York Council chiefs to haul down their ramshackle changing rooms on Little Knavesmire and build a new clubhouse and community cafe.
The club, established in 1988 and the first in the city to gain the FA Charter Standard Award, have been based at the South Bank site – the home of the Royal Observer Corps during World War II – since 1995 but their miserable changing facilities have contributed to a drop in members in recent years.
With their current home now considered by professional consultants to be no longer viable as a sporting facility, the club, which still boasts a membership of more than 200 players, finally have the chance to revitalise their base.
The new clubhouse will include four changing rooms, two referees rooms, a community cafe and clubroom, extra storage space and better parking for cars and cycles. The project has the support of the council, North Riding County FA and, following consultation, the community at large.
But, although the scheme has been backed at all levels, funding is still an issue.
The club will approach the Football Foundation and Sport England for the main body of the cash required for construction. They must, though, still raise £50,000 towards the project.
While support has been received from a number of city organisations and businesses, and club members have organised a series of fundraising activities including bag packing and race nights, they are still appealing for help.
Said Phil Sanderson, club secretary: “Replacing the current unpopular building with an attractive new sports facility will be seen as a city-wide environmental benefit - improving the approach to the ‘gateway to York’. All that remains to start building is to finalise the funding.
“This project will make a massive difference to the club. We have put down roots at this site and it will allow us to establish ourselves even more. In the late 90s we were the junior club everyone in York looked to but, gradually, our facilities have dwindled and, with other clubs improving their facilities, our membership has started to decline.
“The Football Foundation have told us that the application has to be in by June and that will mean, hopefully, that we could see the clubhouse up within the next 18 months. We are hoping to tease out a major sponsor and the new building would allow us to put on additional teams, attract more players and provide good quality changing facilties.”
Hamilton Panthers have access to three full size pitches and four mini-soccer pitches, all of which will be within walking distance of the new clubhouse. Two of the main pitches have recently been levelled and seen major improvements to drainage.
The cafe would also be used as a community space as well as an area to holding meetings and coaching courses. Other sporting organisations have expressed an interest in joining the Panthers when their new venture gets off the ground.
Gary Limbert, the council’s football facilities project officer, said of the scheme: “This project has the full support of City of York Council and I am working in partnership with the associated clubs to support its delivery.
“The club currently leases the building from the council but it is intended to complete an asset transfer once the new facility is complete. The club will then have complete control over the running and management of the new facility.”
Steve Wade, county development manager for North Riding County Football Association, added: “The North Riding County FA fully support the ambition of Hamilton Panthers to provide a fit for purpose quality facility for its hundreds of members.
“We are working closely with the club and City of York Council to put together a funding package that will hopefully allow a successful funding application to be made to the Football Foundation and see the club’s dream become a reality.
“I would urge all club members and the local community to get behind the project to ensure it happens.”
Anyone who wishes to donate should contact Sanderson on 07894 470200 or email email@example.com