Milton Keynes’ highest ceremonial honour has been awarded to MK Dons chairman Pete Winkelman.
Tonight, the man who brought football to Milton Keynes became the fifth person in the city’s history to be given Freedom of the Borough.
In front of a packed public gallery, an emotional Mr Winkelman received the honour at a special meeting in the council chamber.
In his speech, Mr Winkelman said: “Thank you for this unbelievable honour, I am humbled by it.
“Milton Keynes was a city born out of imagination and if we can dream it, we can do.
“I am really thankful to have been surrounded by so many amazing people. Through all of it the council has been an amazing partner.
“It is councillors of both the past and present who gave their unswerving support - and made the impossible happen.
“I am hugely proud.”
Commencing the ceremony, Mayor Keith McLean described the Dons chairman as a “bottle of fizzy pop that just keeps fizzing”.
He said: “I had planned a 20-minute speech, but then I realised Pete would not be able to sit still or keep quiet for that long.
“What you see is what you get - he is a man who delivers.”
Mr Winkelman moved to Milton Keynes in 1993 with his wife Berni, son Bobby and daughter Lauren.
Soon after he established Great Liniford Manor as a recording studio with artists such as Jemiroquai, Nigel Kennedy, Feeder and PJ Harvey coming to MK to use the studio.
It was in 1997 that he secured an additional field at Marsh Drive for the local football club. He then had a vision of building a 30,000 all-seater stadium.
Later in 2004, MK Dons was born and four years later, stadium:mk was opened by her Majesty the Queen as part of MK’s 40th birthday celebrations.
Council leader Pete Marland said: “This is a fantastic honour to bestow upon you - not just for your work at the football club, but because of your individual work.
“You have made Milton Keynes a world-known name and there are not many people in this chamber or beyond who will be able to say that.”
His speech was followed by Conservative group leader Edith Bald, who said: “You create a compelling vision that everyone works towards. We can all learn from you.
“So I fully support this motion. Well done Pete we are so proud of you.”
Many councillors took time to thank Mr Winkelman’s wife Bernie for supporting him through all the ups and down - “without her, Pete wouldn’t be what he is.”
Soon after the Dons were promoted to the championship, the Rugby World Cup came to Milton Keynes. It was thanks to Mr Winkelman who convinced ER2015 that the city should be a host.
“Pete Winkelman is Milton Keynes in a person, said Lib Dem leader Councillor Douglas McCall.
“He is so full of energy and passion. He has got drive - and his drive helps us.
“His aims are always to the advantage of Milton Keynes.
“Pete has made MK Dons a real part of the MK community, which is really important.”
Those previously awarded Freedom of the Borough during MK’s 48-year history were the Right Honourable The Lord Campbell of Eskan, the former Chairman of MK Development Corporation, in 1982; Dr James Charles Marshall OBE, in 2009; Dame Cleo Laine, in 2011; and Infiniti Red Bull Racing Team in 2014.