The Salvation Army is preparing to open a new all-weather sports ground adjacent to new meetings rooms and a café in the heart of Bedford to give people of all ages the opportunity to get fit, study, or just relax in a safe environment.
The new sports ground at the Army’s Bedford Congress Hall corps (church) in Commercial Road will open on Saturday, May 24 with five-a-side football and netball tournaments as well as a street festival.
Bedford Borough Council has given permission for part of Commercial Road to be closed off for the event.
The site was purchased from Wells and Youngs Brewery in 2012 and was formerly the the Woolpack Public House. It will now be a ‘dry’ place as no alcohol, cigarettes or gambling will be permitted on the premises, and it will be run on a not-for-profit basis.
Bedford Congress Hall corps officer (church leader) Major Cliff Allchin, said: “The town needs places like this to give all members of society, but young people in particular, somewhere to go and things to do that they can enjoy.
“We want to create a space where everyone feels welcome to come and study, do sports, or even just chill out. This project has been 15 years in the making, since the idea was first mooted, and our dedication to the community has been paramount throughout this time.
“This venture has been built on the faith and and generosity of sponsors and members of the community with a range of fundraising events, as well as a couple of legacies. And people of all faiths will receive a friendly welcome and can come and enjoy the fellowship of others in their community.”
Businesses and charitable organisations will also be able to benefit from the new town centre facilities. To help with annual running costs of the centre the Church and charity hopes to hire out meeting rooms and pitches.
Major Joy Allchin, joint corps officer, added: “Young people will not be expected to pay to use the facilities, but during other times we hope that some money can be raised from the café and by hiring out some of these excellent facilities to offset the costs of running the sports ground.
“As a church and charity we’re already very involved in caring for people who are vulnerable or in need in our community and this will help expand that. We already run youth clubs and kids clubs throughout the week and expanding this with a sports ground was a great way for us to be able to offer practical help as well as a compassionate, listening ear for young people. We want everyone to feel welcome and we felt this was one way we could further the active part we play in Bedford.”