A new £1.8 million state-of-the-art football facility in the heart of the city has officially opened and hopes to encourage people to get involved in the sport.
In 1865, a group of men playing shinty – a Gaelic form of hockey – at the Forest Recreation Ground decided to form Nottingham Forest Football Club.
Now, 150 years later, the club is back where it started on its original turf with the launch of its new, pristine community hub.
The Forest Sports Zone includes a full-size, floodlit all-weather 3G football pitch, floodlit sand-based multi-activity pitch, pavilion with six changing rooms, catering facilities and indoor space for education, club and social activities.
The Lord Mayor, Forest’s two-time European Cup winning captain John McGovern, former Reds midfielder Jermaine Jenas, academy director Gary Brazil and first-team players Tyler Walker and Oliver Burke all watched on as the facility was unveiled by Nottingham Forest in the Community and Nottingham City Council.
David Trimble, portfolio holder for leisure and culture, said: “The whole place is completely different now to what it was three years ago. It’s a great park again and it’s got a Green Flag and Green Heritage Award.
“I was absolutely delighted when Nottingham Forest in the Community became a successful organisation in order to come and run it.
“So, after 150 years since whistles were used, shin pads were invented and nets on goals established Nottingham Forest in the Community is coming home.”
The renovation to one of the most deprived areas in the city – which in the last 15 years had become run down and in disrepair – started when the council won a £5.2 million grant from the Heritage lottery to spruce up the park.
But the lottery would not give money towards The Sports Zone and the council raised a further £1.8 million from 14 different funding streams – including The Football Foundation and the Premier League – to construct the site.
Now opened, Nottingham Forest in the Community – a charitable arm of the football club – hope the centre will help community engagement and provide a bridge from grassroots football into the professional game.
Graham Moran, chief executive of the organisation, said: “We are today announcing the launch of our Advanced Coaching Centre, in partnership with Nottingham Forest Academy, to identify talented young footballers and provide a bridge to our elite level football and hopefully future players for Nottingham Forest Football Club and other professional teams.”
Tyler Walker, 19, who progressed from Forest’s academy into the first-team, said: “Hopefully with something like this it allows the route to get into an academy (to be) a lot easier.
“With this being Forest in the community, people can come down and watch and see all the lads that want to come in, and hopefully try and pick them up and get them in the (Forest) academy.”