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BDP reveals plans for English football success

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Football’s coming home- to Burton upon Trent, where a new dedicated National Football Centre for England’s elite professionals is being designed by BDP.


This week the practice revealed to the AJ its designs for the centre, a project which has been the brainchild of the Football Association’s technical director and former England caretaker manager Howard Wilkinson. He wants the centre to become the ‘Oxford and Cambridge’of football coaching, says BDP.


The multimillion-pound scheme aims to provide a secluded residential training facility in the middle of the countryside for the England first and under 21 teams, and ‘students’, including those taking their training badges.


BDP won the scheme after the FA and its subsidiary company, England Football Enterprises, ran a competition - the others on the shortlist were ORMS and Broadway Malyan.


And BDP director Tony McGuirk believes it was partially the practice’s experience in designing sports venues such as the Wimbledon estate that gave it the edge.


The site is large at 141ha - about the same size as London’s Regent’s Park. Work on the project has already begun, the scheme having won full planning consent from East Staffordshire Borough Council and Staffordshire County Council just five months after BDP started designs.


The project will provide state-of-the-art facilities in sports science, player development research, coach education and medicine.


The site has been carefully planned so that veteran trees in the area - it lies in the National Forest - can all be retained and many of them will provide good wind protection for some of the outdoor pitches.


At the centre of the project is the main, full-sized indoor pitch, a new, hitech artificial surface very close to grass in feel covered by the largest laminated timber gridshell roof in Europe, which has been designed by BDP’s special structures group. The asymmetric roof is designed to be tall enough - at 23.5m high over the centre circle and 11m at its lowest point - to accommodate David Seaman’s goalkicks, said McGuirk. Lining one side of the pitch are viewing facilities, sports science accommodation, gyms, hydrotherapy treatment rooms and delivery space, etc, beneath a grass roof, while to the south-east of the site, BDP has arranged the accommodation for players - the Living House.


Three separate wings, each containing 50 rooms (plus two for managers), are located around a central, timber-clad briefing block.


The full national squad will enjoy views out to the countryside, and the rooms are designed around the players’main activities besides training - sleeping and washing - with moveable screens in the rooms acting as partitions. Materials are buff terracotta and black tile for the external walls.


BDP has also designed spaces for media interviews and video presentations of tactics, etc, in the Learning House, while all the pitches are ‘wired’ for instant replays of game play. Different grades of outdoor pitches, including one just for goalkeepers, are geared towards the players making a ‘progression’before final teamwork takes place on a national stadium quality ‘arena’grass pitch.


This will be used just before teams depart to play in different tournaments or one-off games.


Similarly, routes around the site are designed to be almost processional in flavour and ordered so that venues are about five minutes’walk from each other. BDP has aimed at creating a collegiate atmosphere, with a build-up of anticipation created by the players catching glimpses of the centre as they arrive, framed by trees. BDP has also closely observed the way in which teams and their coaches move around such centres. ‘Like cardinals, ‘says McGuirk.


Also on site are offices for the FA, England manager, facilities manager and technical director.The centre is on course to be completed in 2004, in readiness for the countdown to the 2006 World Cup.

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