CSF chief spurred on by Canaries’ visit to Florida friends
- Credit: Kevin Wiatrowski/Visit Tampa Bay
As fund-raising work to complete north Norwich's new community hub The Nest continues, David Freezer spoke to Community Sports Foundation chief Ian Thornton about his fact-finding trip to the USA.
Norwich City's time in Tampa has provided fresh enthusiasm for the fund-raising challenges of 2019 for the Community Sports Foundation.
The charity's chief executive, Ian Thornton, was among the party of almost 100 players, staff, supporters and corporate partners who made the trip to Florida late last year.
While the trip acted as a warm weather break for Daniel Farke's team, it was also a fact-finding and networking opportunity for the club's senior staff. That included visits to the Tampa Bay sports clubs; American football franchise the Buccaneers, ice hockey team the lightning, baseball outfit the Rays and soccer side the Rowdies.
'I was really impressed with how the values are lived out by the owners, the leaders and the staff,' Thornton said, as work towards CSF's new community hub, The Nest, continues.
'That's instrumental for our football club, if we want to make it the best experience possible for our fans and partners, if we work together we can make a lot happen.
'Seeing the things they've achieved by having that attitude probably inspired me the most. I've seen the importance of things like engaging their players in the community more, we do that, so I don't think we're vastly different, so being out here helps us to see we're on the right track.'
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CSF – the football club's official charity partner – have plenty more hard work to save the £2.5million needed to complete the total £9.4m project at the old Anglian Windows site near Norwich Airport.
Phase one was opened in September, concluding the renovation of the clubhouse, installation of residential 'bunk boxes' and the relaying of seven grass football pitches, while phase two would bring an indoor sports hall, a gym, a floodlit 3G football pitch and classroom facilities.
The Nest is set to be one of the good causes which will benefit from the joint celebration match being held at Carrow Road in May to honour the Canaries careers of Wes Hoolahan and Russell Martin, featuring two teams of former City players.
That follows on from last summer's match between the Canaries Legends and Inter Forever featuring a host of famous football names, to mark the 25-year anniversary of City's famous Uefa Cup run and raise funds for The Nest.
'It was interesting talking to the guys from the Lightning and they were saying it's very important to have an elite training ground, it's very important to have an elite home stadium but it's also important to have a community facility which actually makes a difference in the local community,' continued Thornton, who has been part of the charity for over 20 years, starting during its former guise as Football in the Community.
'We've still got some very strong fund-raising targets and have spent some great time out here (in Tampa) with some of the partners who are already supporting us.
'At the same time the football club are ingrained now to help us get to that point and all we'd ask of the Norfolk people, it's no different to what the Americans have done here, is ask the local people and businesses how they can get involved and make a difference – because this is going to benefit you and us in the future.
'There are lots of similarities, it's all very inspiring, but it's essentially about good people, with good skills and resources, wanting to make a difference.
'I believe we've got those beliefs but the more we stick together, the more we'll make it happen.'
The Canaries were in the US in November as part of their partnership with the club's official destination partner, Visit Tampa Bay.
Thornton added: 'To come out here, I've been very lucky and grateful to be a part of the football club's experience.
'Visiting the franchises, the Lightning, Buccaneers and the Rays, the importance they place on fan engagement and community – but more importantly the importance they place on working together.
'It just shows what we're doing as a football club, in terms of facility development in Colney and The Nest, we're not too far away. Our visions and values are very similar.
'It encourages us in the future to realise we are doing some good stuff, there are things we can learn, together we don't do too bad at Norwich City, but I'm sure we can do a bit more.'
• For more about The Nest, and to make a donation, go to communitysportsfoundation.org.uk
• For more about City's time in Tampa check out the latest Pink Un magazine, available in local newsagents now or to order online at buyamag.co.uk