The Nest another example of Norwich City's commitment to the community
- Credit: Alex Guest/Community Sports Foundation
In the modern game, it's easy to feel that sense of community that once bound football to the local area so strongly has vanished.
After all, with inflated transfer fees, rising prices and supporters transitioning into customers, that disillusion is all too real for so many. Largely, community clubs have become a thing of the past.
That isn't the case for Norwich City.
At the core of their institution is a commitment to serve the community they represent. They have is a strong presence and Norfolk is an area that worships its lone professional club.
After all, it isn't the shirts of Manchester United, Arsenal or Chelsea that are worn by youngsters, it's the yellow and green of the Canaries.
Given a Premier League return is on the horizon, you couldn't blame them for shutting the doors and refusing to engage with the people knowing the grand prize that is hanging in front of their faces.
Instead, those custodians are as visible as ever. They are willingly engaging with supporters even in a coronavirus pandemic that has shattered normality and plunged so many into darkness.
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As you drive into the Nest facility near Norwich Airport, it's hard not to be wowed by the seismic improvements made over the past year. For many involved with the Community Sports Foundation, this was a pipe dream that has become reality.
Back in 2017, this was an abandoned site lacking life and purpose. Anglian Windows had moved out and the site had been closed since 2014. The CSF recognised an opportunity to expand their support on a wider basis after being based at Carrow Road.
The journey has been gruelling. For some inside the organisation, it has led to sleepless nights and stressful moments. The football club have supported the project, putting £500k into the campaign back in 2019.
Former City stars Russell Martin, Wes Hoolahan, Angus Gunn and John Ruddy have also donated to the cause. The Nest's new changing rooms will be dedicated to the quartet of ex-Canaries' players who have helped raise the required funds.
The £4.6 million phase of development has seen the construction of a new main building, a full-size floodlit 3G pitch and ‘challenge woods’ outdoor activity area, adding to the facilities that were renovated and reopened in September 2018.
The doors are set to open to 250 participants on Monday as coronavirus lockdown restrictions continue to be eased. Recreational sport is set to resume, with the Nest set to benefit Norfolk's children.
At a low estimation, the hope is that a further 12,000 people will benefit from the new facilities.
Norwich City's women will make the Nest their home as they continue their strides on and off the pitch. Local companies, such as BlueSpace, have provided materials and had an input into the development of the site. This is a facility funded, crafted and built for the people of Norfolk, to be used by those who live in the county.
This is a true team effort, one that Norfolk should be incredibly proud to host and one that reinforces the Canaries' commitment to serving their local community.
For Jackie Thornton, head of development at the CSF, this has been a labour of love and the pride is palpable as she speaks about the facility.
"The football club have been phenomenal and have supported us in every department, whether that's the Wes v Russ game, the Inter Milan game or finding half a million pounds that we used for match-funding to find the last million pound.
"Those aren't things to be sniffed at. I don't know other football clubs that do this. Their investment into the community and our relationship with the football club is brilliant. They get everything from the top down.
"We're really grateful that they have helped make this happen."
Behind the scenes are a group of workers, volunteers, skilled coaches and many more that are the heartbeat of the organisation. Fuelled by their quest to help, inspire, educate and bring joy to people of all ages, backgrounds and circumstances.
This new site will be used by generations. It will be a force for good in Norfolk. The launchpad for many youngsters to find talents and express themselves, the place where people can reconnect and conquer loneliness.
Underpinning it all is a willingness to help people. In times that have been incredibly dark and tough for so many, community is something that many of us have learned to cherish.
The Nest is a place where that is going to flourish. After four years and millions of pounds raised, they have finally #BuiltTheNest.
And it's something the whole of Norfolk should celebrate.