Refurb will mean fewer changing rooms

A £1.5 million plan to refurbish changing rooms on the Downs will mean that fewer rooms will be available so football teams will have to stagger kick-off times.

The Downs committee, made up of Bristol councillors and Merchant Venturers, met on Monday, November 13 and agreed to press ahead with the refurbishment of the changing rooms. Football players previously described them as “atrocious”, with cold faulty showers.

Labour Councillor Kye Dudd, who plays in the Downs Football League, said the new design would bring the changing rooms up to modern standards and requirements — albeit with fewer rooms than currently. He said the building could not be expanded under the plans.

He said: “The hard part starts here and that’s trying to raise the funding to actually deliver the project. We’re working within the current footprint of the changing rooms and it’s within the existing structure, so all the changes will be internal. We’re redesigning the layout to bring the changing facilities up to a modern standard.
“There have been discussions around if we could go up a storey. But for the costs we’re adding into the scheme, we would never see the benefit back. The economics of it don’t really add up.”

The building can’t be extended outwards due to a law protecting the Downs from new development. And building a new storey on top could be too expensive.

Cllr Dudd added: “The changing rooms have to meet modern requirements in order to receive any external funding from the Football Association or other sports bodies. That does mean a reduction in the changing rooms available. We’ll probably have to have staggered kick-off times, rather than everyone kicking off at the same time.

“The idea of this refurbishment is so that we can have women’s football and disabled football. You could potentially have women’s referees at the moment refereeing men’s football, but there’s nowhere for them to change. So that’s part of it as well, providing compliant changing facilities for referees.”

The committee, which oversees Clifton Down and Durdham Down, is hoping to receive up to £500,000 from the Football Foundation, the UK’s largest sports charity which is funded by the Premier League. But it’s so far unclear where the rest of the money for the refurbishment will come from.

Plans to refurbish the changing rooms stretch back at least four years, and it’s still not known when work will actually begin on the ground. David Freed, a property developer and Merchant Venturer, said his firm has been working on the designs for free.

He said: “Nobody has been paid, there has been no costs to the Downs committee or anybody else. All the work by my team and other professionals involved has been done pro bono, so far.
“But more work needs to be done. It’s substantial, if you look at the costs on the changing rooms, by the time we’ve finished you could probably get it done for a million and a half. That’s a lot of money.”

By Alex Seabrook, Local Democracy Reporting Service