The Arsenal Hub - Home of Arsenal in the Community opened its doors to the public for the first time on Friday, May 8, for a special launch event.
The Arsenal in the Community team's new base will deliver 50 hours of sports and education sessions to 1,500 local people each week when it is fully up and running later this year. Based around a 50m long, 4G astroturf pitch, the facility also houses classrooms, meeting space and the Arsenal Red Zone adult learning centre.
Arsenal stars Per Mertesacker and Francis Coquelin joined more than 100 guests to celebrate the opening of the Hub.
Attendees were welcomed to the centre by the head of Arsenal in the Community, Alan Sefton, before watching the first official game on the pitch between participants from a range of Arsenal in the Community programmes. Mertesacker and Coquelin helped to kick off the game, before taking on the role of managers.
The Gunners duo also took a tour of the Hub, meeting participants from the Arsenal Employability programme and the club's Gap Year scheme. They then dropped in on schoolchildren from four Islington primary schools, who were taking part in the club's flagship education programme, the Arsenal Double Club.
Mertesacker said: “As a player you are always concerned with what happens on the pitch, but it is great to see some of the work that the club does away from that. Growing up, I know how much I would have enjoyed a centre like this, right by my club’s stadium. So I am very happy that local people here have it.”
Sefton added: “We are really excited to be up and running in our new centre. It’s a fantastic facility which will allow us to run more sessions and work with more individuals in the local area than ever before.”
The Arsenal Hub was inspired by the ‘JVC’ centre at Highbury. Its opening marks the completion of the £390 million Emirates Stadium regeneration project, which has seen a state of the art recycling centre and 3,000 new homes built in Islington since the Gunners' move from Highbury in 2006.
Among the guests to help celebrate the opening was MP for Islington North Jeremy Corbyn, who said: "The opening of the Arsenal Hub is really exciting for the borough. It will allow lots of people to fulfil their dream of playing and enjoying football and fitness at a centre by Emirates Stadium, and will have a positive impact on the local community as a whole.”
The opening of the Arsenal Hub coincides with the 30th anniversary of Arsenal in the Community, who have been delivering meaningful community projects in Islington since 1985.
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