The chairman of an Ilkeston football club has paid tribute to the local architect whose vision has brought them back from the brink of disaster with a big new goal for 2018.
Players and officials from Ilkeston FC Juniors & Ladies visited the Bath Street offices of Lacey and Owen Architects to present a thank you gift to Stuart Lacey.
Over the last 12 months, Stuart has donated his time and skills to the club for free to design new changing rooms for the club pitches at Booths playing fields on Awsworth Road.
Chairman Mark Frost said: “Stuart is a hero of the community, and there is no way we’d be in the position we are now without his help.
“It’s incredible to think we are looking forward to building a new home in 2018, considering the devastation we faced just 18 months ago.”
Mark and the club faced a very different prospect in July 2016, after a group of travellers took up temporary residence on the land.
With help from Erewash Borough Council, Derbyshire County Council and the police, the club successfully evicted the travellers after six days - but they left behind a trail of damage and waste which required an extensive clean-up operation.
Mark, who won a volunteer of the year award from the Derbyshire Football Association for leading the club’s response, said: “It left us with a seven-acre site covered in rubble, which was only fit for dog walkers. It was nearly the death of us.
“Aside from the clean-up, we also faced the problem that travellers could return to the site at any time if we didn’t come up with a solution very quickly.”
He added: “That’s when the idea for the changing rooms came about, as we would get more legal protection from having a permanent building on site with water and electricity.
“We didn’t have any idea how difficult it would be, but it proved a huge task with lots of added costs and red tape. We were very lucky that Stuart came on board at just the right moment.”
Not content to simply design the new building, Stuart has also poured countless hours of his own time into managing the planning process.
Mark said: “He heard what had happened to the club and came to us saying, I’m an Ilkeston man and I’ll do whatever I can to help.
“He has dealt with the council, the Coal Authority, the flood risk assessors, and he’s always been ready to drop everything and be on site. I don’t know how many thousands of pounds he has saved us in his time and contacts.”
Stuart has given plenty of attention to the building itself too, creating an innovative split roof design which will allow natural light and heat throughout the changing rooms, kitchen area, and storage facilities – saving the club more money on utility bills.
The club has more than 400 players over 27 teams, who have had to get changed in the car park until now.
Mark said: “He could have gone for something a lot cheaper and easier, but he’s put a lot of thought into future-proofing it. It’s only a small building, but we won’t get to a point in five years time where we need to rebuild.
“He’s determined to do something which could still be serving Ilkeston’s young people in 50 years, and that’s what the Booth family left the land for. We’ve always been known for having one of the best local playing surfaces, now we’ll have facilities to match.”
The club has been given support for the project from the Football Foundation, but will be fundraising throughout the year to finance the rest of the project and Mark is currently sourcing quotes from local building firms.
He said: “It’s been amazing how many people want to donate their time and services to make it happen, we hope others will get on board too.”