A GRASSROOTS project to create a sports and community hub in Winchester has reached its £800,000 target – taking a major step forward.

The Pavilion Project began fundraising in 2017, gaining support from the community and businesses, to replace a dilapidated structure at North Walls Recreation Ground.

And now volunteers are celebrating the success, with the scheme going out to tender to find a contractor to demolish and dispose of the existing building and construct the new pavilion.

Project lead Mike Caldwell said: “We are absolutely delighted - it has been quite a long haul really. We first discussed the project in 2015 and started fundraising in earnest in 2017.

“It has been a great team effort and fantastic to have support from the community for what we are doing, particularly with the closure of River Park (Leisure Centre) it is going to be important.”

It is hoped that the existing building will be demolished by January next year at the latest and work completed on the new pavilion by summer 2021.

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The community has raised around £500,000 for the build and in January city councillors on the town forum, representing the city wards, agreed to back the scheme with a grant of £295,000 to meet a funding shortfall.

The project was also pledged £20,000 of match funding by a charitable trust, with donations from the community and businesses this was achieved.

“Certainly, this has happened in such challenging times, we got the award [council grant] pre-lockdown. In these times fundraising has been challenging, but we’ve had more support from the community,” Mr Caldwell said.

The pavilion will be used not just by the district’s cricket community for only four months of the year, but rather all-year-round by cricket and other sports, and by community groups and local schools too.

“It will certainly be a focal point for North Walls with the closure of the leisure centre there isn’t going to be any changing facilities for sports teams. It will improve the offer for cricketers, and I think it is going to be a much more used location for cricket in the future.”

Tim Fell, from the project, previously told a city council forum that the existing pavilion only has around 2,200 visits a year.