SELF-proclaimed Cowley boy-turned England footballer, Martin Keown, beamed as he officially opened a new £2.1m sports complex yesterday.
The Community Arena at Court Place Farm in Marston, Oxford, will transform sport in the city for generations, boasting a state-of-the art artificial football pitch, six netball courts and new changing rooms.
Former Arsenal, Everton and Aston Villa player Mr Keown, 45, said: “I know a little bit about the facilities that existed, or didn’t exist, in Oxford.
“I went through the experience of being a young person in the area who was interested in sport. Then, decades later, I started bringing my own kids through it, and nothing had changed. Until now.”
He added: “Anyone growing up in Oxford sees all these great sports grounds at the university. We are proud to be part of a city with such an establishment of learning, but it’s nice to see something for ourselves.”
The centre, at the home of Oxford City Football Club, was funded to the tune of £1.59m, with money coming from the Football Foundation, Sport England and Oxford City Council.
The club and Oxfordshire netballers raised £550,000.
Thousands of netballers, footballers, rugby players and hockey players have used the new arena over the past two weeks.
Challow Ladies netball player Yasmin Humphreys, 17, from Wantage, said: “It’s really nice. There was nothing like this in the county before now.”
Young footballer Joe Gibbs, seven, a pupil at St Nicholas’ Primary School in Marston, was also having fun.
He said: “I play for Oxford City and I have done for a few years. This place is much nicer than anything we’ve had before. It’s really good.”
The Community Arena is available for any group to use. Oxford City will also use it for its own training.
Club chairman Brian Cox said: “The club is 130 years old this year. There have been many magic moments over those years, but nothing like this project we have achieved here today.
To find out more, visit communityarena.co.uk