In Focus: FWP - Ambition Grows On The Farm
Mill Farm’s distinctive floodlights shine like a beacon, illuminating what ambition and a drive to create something special can deliver at all levels of football.
The home to AFC Fylde, known as ‘The Coasters’, is a 6,000-capacity stadium on the outskirts of the market town of Kirkham, some nine miles inland from Blackpool’s famous Golden Mile.
The stadium sits at the heart of the award-winning Mill Farm Sports Village that was created by leading architecture, design and master-planning practice FWP Ltd.
The final stage of eight years’ work to deliver the multi-million-pound stadium project, its impressive North Stand opened to home supporters at the turn of the year.
With an 1,850 capacity, the stand is also home to a state-of-the-art ‘fan zone’, with quality matchday food and beverage facilities. Improved matchday car parking was also a very important part of this final phase.
The stadium and the wider Mill Farm project, just off junction three of the M55 motorway on the Fylde coast, has been delivered from concept to completion by FWP’s specialist sports multi-disciplinary team.
FWP has been involved in Mill Farm from day one – working with the National League North club’s owner David Haythornthwaite, both to shape the plans for the mixed-use development and to create a special home for the team and its supporters.
FWP worked closely with the club throughout the process to create a vibrant and modern development that is seen as a real asset to the local community and its economy.
FWP, which has offices in Preston, Manchester and London, has built a national reputation for delivering successful football and sports ground projects, through its design work and by creating sustainable community stadiums that generate much-needed income streams.
David Robinson, FWP managing partner, says: “The North Stand was the final piece of the stadium jigsaw and it completes the original vision to create a modern, vibrant ground for AFC Fylde that matches its EFL ambitions.
“In all our football stadium work our aim is to deliver real destination venues for sport, leisure and entertainment for the whole of the local community, with real benefits for clubs and their supporters. Mill Farm is a great example of this.”
Brad Grime, FWP senior associate, led on the project. He specialises in sports and leisure, and it is one of several impressive community football projects he has been involved in, including Blackbridge Sports Hub in Gloucestershire.
Looking at the impressive facilities it offers for supporters, he says: “Supporters expectations of their matchday experience continue to rise and clubs like AFC Fylde are working hard to deliver.”
Mill Farm’s development as a sports village was made possible by associated enabling projects, including several established and highly successful, commercial and industrial developments on the site which have already brought more than 200 permanent and 400 temporary jobs to the area.
AFC’s Mill Farm home includes a 290-capacity sports bar, a 70-seater Italian restaurant with an ‘al fresco’ roof terrace, a café, large conference and event facilities and a five-star hotel.
An Aldi supermarket also sits on the site, along with a 24-hour petrol station integrating a convenience store, and a host of well-known fast-food outlets. These developments also helped to fund the stadium and the sports village’s facilities.
Mill Farm is also home the Fylde Sports and Education Centre which as well as being the base for the local hockey club, also has as six and seven-a-side and two full size 3G pitches.
FWP has worked with a host of football clubs, including ambitious non-league sides such as AFC Fylde, Hastings United and FC United of Manchester.
FWP’s successful regeneration of Championship club Preston North End’s Deepdale home includes income-generating and community facilities such as a gym, a local charity’s headquarters, an NHS centre and educational and conferencing facilities.
The practice has also worked to deliver Fleetwood’s Highbury Stadium, working in partnership with the club on its journey from non-league to League One status.
At the very top of the pyramid, the Premier League, FWP successfully delivered a £1m refurbishment of Everton’s corporate hospitality facilities at Goodison – an important part of the club’s revenue stream. It has also carried out work for Manchester United.
FWP’s strategic advice and design expertise, as well as the ability to work to budgets, proves crucial when sports clubs have limited resources for their plans.
The realisation that a stadium can provide a wide range of income-generating ancillary and community uses continues to play a major part in helping clubs to successfully regenerate their grounds.
It is increasingly important in the development of funding arrangements and the building of business cases for new grounds. It is also influencing architectural design, with the focus on placed on maximising space.
In all its design work FWP looks to create that “added value” that can be delivered through usable floor space. In a standard spectator stand that can be sizeable.
A typical 40-row side grandstand development can create more than 4,000m2 of floor space that can be used commercially.
David Robinson says: “Sports operators must be creative and aware of the needs of both the community and the commercial providers in their local area. This informs the design and the creation of lettable space for income generation.
“We are also very adept at maximising planning gain and value on all the projects, again, something which is really important to clubs in the current challenging financial climate.”
Image: FWP/AFC Fylde