Arsene Wenger today officially opened the Arsenal Hub by slotting home a penalty at the facility’s new 4G indoor pitch.
Situated by Benwell Road (50-yards from the Armoury shop), the Hub – which houses classrooms, meeting space and a learning centre – is set to deliver 50 hours of sports and education sessions to 1,500 local people each week.
It’s opening marks the final piece in the jigsaw of the Gunners’ £390 million Emirates Stadium regeneration; a mammoth project that started in the late nineties with a quest for a suitable site and has culminated in the creation of 3,000 homes, a new recycling centre and a shiny 60,000 stadium.
The hub’s completion also coincides with the 30th anniversary of Arsenal in the Community; a fitting tribute to an organisation that has worked so tirelessly on behalf of Islington locals.
Arsene is the third high-profile visitor to the site in the last few days – Per Mertesacker and Francis Coquelin also dropped in for a kickabout on Friday afternoon – and he had the following to say at the opening ceremony:
“The Arsenal Hub will be a fantastic facility for our Arsenal in the Community team and the young people they work with every day.
“As a club, I believe we have an important role to play in the local area and I am very proud of the positive impact we are able to make. The new facility will help us do even more.”
It’s amazing to think it’s nearly nine years since Dennis Bergkamp’s testimonial kicked-off life at our new home. Looking back on that first day it all felt a bit weird. With Highburian cliques scattered and old routines tinkered with everybody had a slightly lost look on their faces.
Sure there was excitement – not least because Oleg Luzhny was back and we all got free t-shirts – but there was also a sense we’d been dropped in an alien world. It was Arsenal, but not as we knew it.
Sure the Emirates will never be Highbury – newly set concrete can’t be injected with 93 years of history or Art Deco handsomeness – but the place is finally starting to feel like home. I think we can all agree that last year’s FA Cup triumph certainly helped.
It’s a long, hard road that has been walked to get to this point so a tip of the cap to all those who’ve been involved. We really are very lucky to have what we have.