BADMINTON England has begun the process of relocating from Loughton to a new £20 million facility at The National Bowl, the Citizen can reveal.
The sport’s governing body has submitted an initial application to Milton Keynes Council for what has been described as one of the best training and community sport facilities in the world.
BADMINTON England’s relocation from the National Badminton Centre to The Bowl would see the land at its existing Loughton base sold to property developers, with around 100 new homes likely to be built at the site.
A more detailed planning application will be submitted by January next year and the hope is that the new centre, which includes a 3,000-seater arena, will open in the spring of 2015.
The project, earmarked for the site known as the north east car park adjacent to the V4 Watling Street, is not connected to MK Dons’ attempts to build a new training base in the area, and would not involve building on the bowl itself.
The initial application includes a minimum 16 court indoor badminton hall, new fitness club, administrative accommodation, athlete accommodation, and associated car parking space.
Adrian Christy, chief executive of BADMINTON England, said the move was inspired by the council’s International Sporting City concept, and would offer a wide range of community benefits.
“It means the National Badminton Centre will double in size,” he said. “Demand outstrips supply at our current base. At the moment we have to turn clubs away because we don’t have the space for them.
“We want to remain in Milton Keynes because of the fantastic support we have here and we see The Bowl as the perfect place to enable BADMINTON England and MK Council to realise an amazing vision that will deliver fantastic benefits for the local community.
“The arena will allow Milton Keynes to attract major national, European and international sporting events. Not just badminton competitions, but several other sporting events that might include volleyball, table tennis, netball and basketball.
“This venture is of major national importance. It has the backing of Sport England and is considered on a par with the St George’s Park Football Centre in Burton-upon-Trent and Manchester’s National Cycling Centre.
“We are now conducting due diligence and undertaking a period of full consultation including MK Council, the land owners and local residents.”
With the new centre planned to open just before Britain’s elite badminton stars begin their bid to qualify for Rio 2016, Mr Christy said the project would be of major benefit to players at all levels of the sport and will bring significant economic growth to Milton Keynes.
The current National Badminton Centre on Bradwell Road first opened its doors in January 2000 and has been the home of BADMINTON England since.
Mr Christy also revealed that talks were taking place to try and convince two other sports governing bodies to relocate to the site.
“We have the potential to offer the Milton Keynes public access to sports facilities that are currently not available in the city,” he said.
“This is an incredibly exciting time for British sport. The nation cannot be more proud of the hosting of the Olympics and Paralympics Games in the summer.
“The vision of the International Sporting City will not only create a lasting legacy, but sets our sights in being a major player among other sporting cities in this country.”
>> Pictured (top) is an artist’s impression of what the new Badminton Centre could look like. Also pictured is the land it will be built on at the National Bowl and BADMINTON England’s current base at Loughton.