It is official - MK Dons will be building a training ground at the National Bowl.
The Citizen can reveal an agreement between Milton Keynes Development Partnership, the council and the club to begin redevelopment of the concert venue in the new year.
The battle for a training ground has long since been a bugbear for Dons chairman Pete Winkelman, who has often spoken of his desire to take on the Bowl as a facility for the club. And now he has his wish.
“I’m so excited,” he said. “It has been a long time coming.
“This is it – this is where it will be, and we will get it right. We’ve made major investments at Woughton, we are a part of their plans for the next few years. But we want to do something good – I’m not just going to pull down some bushes and put a few pitches in.
“I recognise the importance it has to Milton Keynes. And now I think we can get 365 days a year usage out of it, as well as improving the facility and it’s reputation to attract world class events.
“This is the one I’ve always wanted. It has been frustrating to see that great space not used. It has been a few years since a concert was there.
“The Bowl needed nurturing, and no-one ever had a long-term deal for that. And MKDP have worked out a way that works for us, and our funders, and I’m so excited to have this opportunity.
“But the work starts now. I’m re-imagining the Bowl now.
“We want it to be really accessible to Milton Keynes – it’s an asset. I want members of the public to be a part of this, while also maintaining the privacy of the football club.
“It’s a major moment. I’m hugely grateful to the Council, and Pete Marland in particular, and MKDP for giving me the opportunity. I want the chance and let me see what I can do. I won’t do anything if I can’t do it great.”
Though there has not been a major concert at the Bowl since the Foo Fighters sold it out in 2015, Winkelman is intent on keeping it as a viable music venue,
He continued: “In my head, the first team will be in the Bowl itself. They can be covered, a building in the Bowl that will service that and the concerts too. From that one thing, it’ll be so much easier to put on concerts.
“But then we move on – academy pitches over the river. It’s a huge site. Suddenly, the Bowl will be the hive of activity it should be all year round.
“Music will be central to the majesty of the place, and we will be looking at how we can house that too.
“Our improvements to the Bowl will be for everyone. If we have one annual event, and one major concert too, we can represent Milton Keynes to that touring community. It’s still very close to my heart.”
The club had held long-term talks over building a training base near Newport Pagnell and outside Milton Keynes in Cosgrove prior to securing a deal with the Bowl. And although Winkelman had genuine intentions for those sites, the Bowl was always his first choice.
He said: “They were all real, and were things we seriously looked at but none of them are as good as the Bowl.
“We’ve given over a difficult brief and let’s see what we can do. The drawings will be ready when they are ready, and we will go to planning when they are ready.”