Prime Minister Theresa May officially opened the doors to The Leisure Box in Burnley recently. The £4.5m facility forms part of a larger phased development at a historic mill site and will be managed by Burnley FC in the Community.
The Leisure Box was made possible thanks to investment from the Premier League, The FA and Government, through their charity, the Football Foundation.
Burnley FC in the Community netted a £611,732 grant from the Football Foundation to support the internal fit-out of the facility in 2018. The works included the implementation of an indoor 40m x 30m third generation (3G) artificial grass pitch (AGP), a sports hall, cricket lanes, a gym, a café, classrooms, a youth club space and a dance studio.
Derelict for ten years, the iconic site is a former textile mill that sits on the border of Burnley and Pendle. The renovation and reimagining of the facility will provide brand new sport, health and wellbeing opportunities for all sections of the community to engage with and participate in.
Lancashire FA worked alongside Burnley FC in the Community to focus on growing football participation at the site. The Walking Football Programme, Premier League Kicks sessions and the creation of six new disability teams at The Leisure Box will ensure a range of football opportunities are available. It is expected to result in a growth of 450 people playing football at the site over the next five years, of which, 168 will be participating in disability football programmes.
Prime Minister Theresa May said: "I am very pleased to be here to open Leisure Box. This is a fantastic facility and it's a great credit to Burnley Football Club in the Community for what they have done in working with others and supporting this.
"I don't know of any other football club who has developed a facility like this and provided sporting opportunities for local children that they wouldn't have elsewhere.
"It's hugely important to have such a regeneration project in the heart of the community and Burnley Football Club can be proud in proving that football and sport can be a force for good. Many people support their local football club and seeing them put something back into the community as well is hugely important."
Neil Hart, Chief Executive of Burnley in the Community, said: "We were honoured that the Prime Minister was able to join us to officially open the Leisure Box facility.
"The Leisure Box has been an extremely exciting project for us as an organisation and, while ambitious, we were confident the community here in Pendle and Burnley would embrace the centre. After four years of hard work, we are delighted to now be open to the public and to see that local people are already benefiting what we have on offer here. We're proud that through the Leisure Box, our charity can support our community in this unique way.
"The opening ceremony was a fantastic opportunity to welcome the Prime Minister to East Lancashire, to not only showcase to her the facility but also the wonderful community spirit we have here in our corner of the county. It has been that desire to work together as a community that has made this project possible; a real partnership approach to make this real and I'm delighted that we could mark the opening with such a special visit."
Paul Thorogood, Chief Executive of the Football Foundation, said: "The support of the Premier League, The FA and Government enables the Football Foundation to help improve community sports facilities like this one across the country. Their funding has played a key role in delivering The Leisure Box in Burnley and I am delighted for everyone associated with the Burnley FC in the Community.
"This is one example we want to make people in Burnley aware of, that they have the kind of quality pitches and changing rooms that are taken for granted in other counties. We will continue to support projects nationwide, but we cannot do this on our own, so we are encouraging organisations in the area to join our movement to deliver quality football facilities for people in Burnley once and for all.
"Taking part in community sport at any level offers many benefits and rewards, not least the opportunity for people to enjoy themselves and socialise with different members of the community."