Hosting the Rugby World Cup in 2015 won’t just be about international visitors, but for local rugby fans too, says MK Dons chairman Pete Winkelman.
Thursday’s announcement that three games would be played at stadium:mk will see the third largest sporting event in the world come to the city in two years.
But while he may be dreaming of his completed stadium playing host to 20,000 France fans singing La Marseillaise, Winkelman hopes fans much closer to home will be part of the action too.
“We’ve got to get a lot of people from Milton Keynes out to these games,” he said. “Yes, we’ll be playing host to people all over the world, but we want to put our best face on for them.
“We want to be a fantastic city to come to, and base yourself at.
“But just as important is having people from Milton Keynes here. It’ll be something to tell the grand children about, it is happening in our lifetime, here and now.
“It was surreal, but it’s history in the making and something we’ll all look back on as the development of Milton Keynes.
“I’m really excited about it and I’m so pleased for everyone that we’ve been able to pull it off.”
The first game to be played at stadium:mk will be see France take on either USA or Canada on October 1, 2015. Two days later on October 3, Samoa will take on one of up to nine Asian teams fighting it out to qualify.
The final game, on October 6, will see a team from the Oceania qualifying group against another play-off winner.
But stadium:mk is no stranger to hosting top flight rugby. Four matches have been held at the ground, most recently the clash between Saracens and Northampton Saints - a match which went right down to the last kick.
And Winkelman admitted he cannot wait to see international competition gracing his pitch.
He said: “I’d have been excited about any games. It’s about Milton Keynes taking part in international competition.
“The Heineken Cup games here were very important for us. They were fantastic events. When you see sport played at the highest level, anyone can get into it.
“The game between Saints and Saracens went down to the last kick of the game.
“Rugby can be a very exciting sport, and in this stadium, where the seats are close to the pitch, it can be a really enthralling atmosphere. We’re really going to make the most of it.”
The announcement comes two and a half years after the disappointment of losing out on the football World Cup bid.
And Winkelman believes it shows just how far Milton Keynes as a city has come, to finally land international competition.
He said: “Ten years ago, you couldn’t have dreamed it. The football world cup bid gave us a glimpse that we were doing things right.
“But to have actual World Cup games in Milton Keynes, playing host to all those people, it doesn’t get better. And we have to grab that opportunity.”