Saturday saw a dream come true for fans of AFC Fylde as the club cemented its meteoric rise through non-league by kicking off the first game of the season at their new stadium.
Nearly 1,500 fans entered the Mill Farm Sports Village stadium to watch the team draw 1-1 with Brackley.
And most of those supporters would have taken a few minutes out of watching the game to marvel at their shining new surroundings.
Leading architects’ practice the Frank Whittle Partnership (FWP) was behind the development.
The aim for the football club was to create a “Premier League set-up”, scaled to suit the dimensions of the new stadium and its ambitions.
FWP was involved in Mill Farm from day one – working with the club and owner David Haythornthwaite both to shape the plans for the £25million mixed-use development on the site and to create the new home for AFC Fylde.
FWP unveiled its original vision for the 32-acre site just off the M55 motorway and on the outskirts of Kirkham and Wesham back in 2013.
It included community sports facilities as well as new retail, leisure and commercial developments.
The masterplan also included a foodstore, a distribution centre with associated office space, a 63-bed hotel, petrol station and a pub.
The new AFC Fylde stadium would have a 6,000 capacity and include a modern 2,000 all-seater main stand with supporters’ bar, executive boxes and a function room, as befitting a club which aims to achieve Football League status by 2022.
A spokesman for FWP said: “The bold structural form rises from the solid base at ground floor level, the sweeping curve of the lightweight roof structure flows along the length of the playing surface, with the slender roof canopy appearing to float over the building below.”
The building is of steel frame construction with concrete terrace units to the pitch side seating areas.
The steel frame and bracings are expressed above the roofline to emphasise the sweeping curve of the roof.
Brad Grime at FWP, led the design team that created the Mill Farm vision, and with it the prospect of hundreds of new jobs.
He spelled out the idea behind the project: “This is a high-quality mix of employment, sporting and leisure facilities.
“It is a well-thought out and considered plan, creating fantastic facilities for local people and bringing much-needed employment to the area.”
The stadium also includes a 290 capacity sports bar, an 80-seat restaurant with roof terrace, a 40 seat café and conference and event facilities across nine rooms.
David Robinson, managing partner at FWP, says the practice has worked closely with the football club throughout the process to create “a vibrant and modern development that will be a real asset to the community and its economy”.
He said: “In all our sports sector 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.
“Our expertise is in developing modern facilities that will be used by members of the community seven days a week, throughout the year, something we believe is vitally important for modern day sports venues to provide.
“We first started working on the vision for a new home for AFC Fylde with David and the club a few years ago, originally looking at another site in the area.
“We then worked with the club and the local authority to identify other potential sites and came up with the vision for Mill Farm.”
FWP is now working with Scunthorpe United to create a striking 12,000 capacity all-seater stadium for the Football League club.
It is part of the masterplan for a £25 million out-of- town football and leisure development created by FWP’s architecture and design team for the club on a site near its present Glanford Park ground.
At Forest Green Rovers, FWP is working with the National League club’s owners and green energy company Ecotricity to deliver a new 5,000 capacity stadium as part of a £100m eco-friendly sports and green technology development.
FWP, with offices in Preston, Manchester and London, also managed the multi-million pound project to deliver a first home for AFC Fylde’s rivals FC United of Manchester.
And it masterminded the successful regeneration of Preston North End’s Deepdale ground.
It has created a new stand and facilities for Fleetwood Town and is developing stadia and community assets for clubs such as Oldham Athletic and Peterborough United.