Exciting plans have been unveiled which are designed to lift Lewes Football Club to a new dimension.
A £5million regeneration programme is mooted at The Dripping Pan, where the emphasis will be on youth - and the ultimate goal a place in the Football League.
The ambitious scheme takes the form of a ‘horseshoe-shaped’ development at the western end of the ground, in Mountfield Road.
Here would be housed retail units, a cafe, a recording and rehearsal studio, a new bar, a special theatres base, a fitness centre, a media space and a TV studio space.
Much of the new facilities will be aimed at local young people of secondary school age.
Charlie Dobres, Board Director at Lewes FC, said: “Youth facilities in the town are under threat. These plans would meet those needs as the Sussex Youth Network Centre [SYNC].
“It would be an enterprise hub bringing together businesses and young people seven days a week - and they would be involved in running it.”
He said the SYNC project was the perfect answer to a serious problem facing local teenagers through the loss of creative outlets, such as the Starfish Music Project being displaced by the the imminent Phoenix Quarter development and question marks over the YMCA headquarters and St Mary’s Social Centre.
The SYNC would give young people a focus for their talents, he said, and dissuade the use of drugs and alcohol in this age group of 11- to 17-year-olds.
It would provide a permanent home for intinerant groups in Lewes.
Also in the plan is an all-weather pitch at the Convent Field, adjacent to the football ground, and the return of the iconic arches in the building behind the west end goal which are currently covered by an inter-war facade.
It is intended that a giant football rattle surmounted by a rook, made with metal from the Phoenix Ironworks, would be a striking new feature at The Dripping Pan.
Lewes is the best supported non-league club in the county, with an average home gate approaching 550. And with an improved infrastructure Mr Dobres believes that figure can top 1,000.
He said: “This scheme is a win-win situation for both the club and the community. We want to create a better experience and a better revenue.”
That revenue would be painstakingly used to fund playing squads capable of lifting The Rooks up the league pyramid towards the promised land. “This would offer a viable shot at getting into the Football League and a sustainable revenue base to support that,” said Mr Dobres.
“Costs rise faster than revenue the higher you go in football – but if you reach the Football League revenue outstrips costs.”
The SYNC project would be funded by grant money from the Football Foundation, a community share issue and “high net worth” individuals in the county. “This is a great way for them to invest their hard-earned money and support local youth at the same time,” added Mr Dobres.
The scheme will go to a vote of the community club’s 900 owners in order to gain the full go-ahead.