Iconic Bowl could be sporting and musical Mecca, says Dons supremo Pete Winkelman

Swedish House Mafia at Milton Keynes Bowl
Swedish House Mafia at Milton Keynes Bowl

An international venue for the world’s sporting and music stars, and a development centre for the city’s future football stars.

That is the vision entrepeneur Pete Winkelman has for Milton Keynes’ iconic National Bowl.

The MK Dons chairman was speaking to this newspaper after the council launched a consultation into the future of the popular venue.

Residents are being urged to give their opinions on five options drawn up by Milton Keynes Council.

It comes after The Bowl was one of a number of key sites passed to the council from the Homes and Communities Agency at the start of this year.

All five options include the addition of a new HQ for Badminton England, which has already been granted planning permission at The Bowl, and provision for cycling, including the existing cycling circuit.

Two of them incorporate Mr Winkelman’s plans for a international ‘team base’ facility and MK Dons training ground.

But the man who made his name as a music executive and established Great Linford Manor as one of Europe’s leading residential recording studios is keen to stress that concerts would still play a huge part in his plans.

He told the Citizen he would hope to hold one or two ‘very big concerts’ every year.

The iconic Bowl has previously played host to the likes of Take That, Queen, Michael Jackson and Oasis, and Mr Winkelman believes the improved facilities his training ground could offer would increase the likelihood of big names coming to Milton Keynes.

“The Bowl is a massively under utilised venue,” he said.

“The plans we have would give it that 365 days a year use. The improved drainage, changing facilities and offices would make it much easier to bring concerts in.

“We are looking at very big concerts, one or two a year. That market is very hard, but the improvements would make sure that if anything is going we will get it.”

And it is not just major music events that could be coming to The Bowl if Mr Winkelman gets his wish.

Milton Keynes has already been named as a venue for the 2015 Rugby World Cup, with stadium:mk hosting three games including matches involving France and Samoa.

But Mr Winkelman believes The Bowl could act as a base for a team during the tournament – and even hinted that future major tournaments like the Olympics or football World Cup could come to MK.

“It is a big chance,” he said.

“If we get a team base facility, because of our location, we would be well placed to do all sorts of things.

“This is something that would have regional and national importance.

“The Bowl is just sat there at the moment, but it is a really iconic place.

“Some of the most magic moments of MK have come from there. By making it so much more special, it will be much more attractive to not only international artists, but international sports stars.”

Mr Winkelman is also keen to develop young talent for Milton Keynes Dons – one of the main reasons he originally brought the club to the city.

He said the new training ground is needed to boost the Dons’ academy from a category three rating by adding facilities like access to 3G pitches and areas where young players can train away from the public eye.

MK Dons Academy has already produced nine internationals in its short history, including Sam Baldock who played for England U21s and current starlet Deli Alli who has represented England U17s.

“It has always been about making sure football is much more than a game on Saturday afternoon,” he added.

Badminton England’s new facility at The Bowl will include a minimum 16 court indoor badminton hall, a new fitness club, administrative and athlete accommodation, and car parking.

Speaking to the Citizen last year, its chief executive Adrian Christy said the move was inspired by the council’s International Sporting City concept.

He said: “It means the National Badminton Centre will double in size. 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.”

Consultation on the five options will run for six weeks and started on June 24. All comments must be submitted by 5pm on August 5.

The five options consist of:

1. The Badminton Project, MK Cycling, an international ‘team base,’ MK Dons training ground and concerts

2. The Badminton Project, an international ‘team base,’ MK Dons training ground and concerts

3. The Badminton Project, MK Cycling and concerts

4. Major concerts and events, as well as the Badminton Project

5. With the exception of the Badminton Project on the east car park which must be included, any proposals within the permissible policy will be allowed

And Mr Winkelman is eager for residents to have their say.

“This is a facility for everyone, for MK,” he said.

“Our plans have developed and continue to develop. People can help make them the best they can be.

“If there is a better idea I will back off.”

Councillor David Hopkins, Cabinet minister responsible for economic development, said: “The National Bowl site is a significant asset, but it is a significantly underused leisure facility.

“The infrastructure is outdated and the site is in need of substantial investment.

“We want to work to turn it into a major leisure and sporting facility for not just Milton Keynes, but also for the wider regional, national and international audience.”

All comments should be sent to urban.design@milton-keynes.gov.uk or posted to Urban Design and Lanscape Architecture, Milton Keynes Council, PO Box 113, Milton Keynes, MK9 3EJ.

The full development brief can be seen at www.milton-keynes.gov.uk/udla