Ashton: Portman Road Needs a New Modern Pitch
Tuesday, 1st Jun 2021 16:09
New Town CEO Mark Ashton has revealed that a new modern pitch with undersoil heating is a priority for the summer of 2022 and that new stands could follow later on down the line.
During Ashton’s time at Bristol City the club virtually rebuilt Ashton Gate and opened a new state-of-the-art training ground. Asked whether there might be similar developments at Town in the years to come, he said: “I didn’t do the stadium development, I did the training ground development, but I think for sure over time.
“We need to almost have an estate strategy for the facilities. You look at the training ground, it’s a rabbit warren, the flow isn’t right. It’s not conducive to developing players. Good land, good pitches but we need to make sure the infrastructure’s right.
“And I think it’s the same at the stadium. I’m going to make no bones about it, one of the things that I’m going to want to invest in in the next year is a modern pitch.
“We’re not in time to do that for this season but with a modern pitch comes undersoil heating. With a modern pitch probably comes Desso [a hybrid natural grass artificial fibre pitch].
“There’s no point in putting a team together that plays the game in a certain way and by February the pitch has gone.
“But to do that we’ve got to make sure that we haven’t got to slightly move the pitch, we’ve got to make sure the dugouts that people keep telling me need sorting out are in the right position because if you put the pitch in and then have to start changing with the undersoil heating, you’re taking one step forward and three steps back.
“I think we’ll take a good look at the stadium, we’ll want to upgrade it and if we think that the plan is right to develop one of the stands at the right time, or more, then we’ll put a plan in place for that.”
A major renovation of the pitch has been something which has been planned at Town for some years and like some other maintenance jobs had been on a list of things to be done after a return to the Premier League and the cash that comes with it.
“I think you put a plan in place and you work through the plan,” Ashton continued. “I don’t think you should hang everything on the Premier League. The Premier League’s a dream, a dream I think we can make reality here.
“But you’ve still got to make sure that your house is tidy and it’s functional and it’s professional. This football club deserves that, the fans deserve that, and we’ll be doing that on the way through for sure.”
Former MD Ian Milne estimated the costs of the work which is required at Portman Road at £1 million to £1.5 million three years ago. The last time serious deep down work was done at a foundation level at Portman Road was back in 1977.
Bristol City’s new training ground features Desso pitches and Ashton agreed with Milne's estimate of the cost of having the required work done at Portman Road.
“It needs a modern pitch,” he added. “It hasn’t got a modern pitch. The groundsman [Ben Connell], who have had several conversations with, tells me that there’s never been a modern pitch here for as long as Portman Road’s been here and it will need that.
“But that will be a substantial investment and we have to start planning that now for this time next year.
“It’s like putting a roof on your house. If you haven’t got a roof on your house, you’re going to have problems. If we haven’t got the pitch right here at Portman Road, we’re going to have problems. That is certainly something which will be on our agenda moving forward.”
He says the stadium itself could do with being spruced up: “We're going to have fans hopefully coming back now as we come out of a pandemic, and that's been a really tough time for everyone in the country.
“It's been difficult for fans trying to watch on streams,and it's just not the same.
“Portman Road is our home and I want to take pride in it. And I don't mean this to be disrespectful, but you guys are standing here now, and it could be sharper, it could be cleaner, it could be better presented, and it's our home, and we need to take pride in our home.
“We're not going to be able to do everything overnight, but there are things we can do.
“We need to make sure the stadium is clean, it's tidy, it's presentable, it's welcoming, that people can get a drink, the food right, the beer is cold, and when people come back in August, I want them to see a difference.
“And that might be subtle small things, but I want us to take pride in this place because it's our home and I think that's really important.”
Photo: Matchday Images
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