GB Academies and National Teams move to Milton Keynes

Sat 1 Oct 2011

It was with no little sadness that the BBF, the BSF and BSUK took a joint decision last April to abandon use of the National Sports Training Centre at Upper Heyford in Oxfordshire once the spring Academy seasons were over.

Upper Heyford had served as a home for baseball and softball national team and Academy indoor winter training since the late 1990s, and had provided our sports with almost unlimited weekend access to facilities they could afford. In the days when baseball and softball were still Olympic sports and the British Olympic Association was supporting the Upper Heyford project on behalf of baseball, softball, volleyball, beach volleyball, archery and fencing, it seemed that the site might have a bright future.

But as the years passed, the BOA and the other sports melted away and the gymnasium building and outdoor diamonds continued to deteriorate through lack of maintenance investment, the writing was on the wall. With no heating in winter and water coming through the roof and eating away at the electrics, Upper Heyford finally had to be abandoned.

But the need for an affordable and accessible indoor winter training site for the Academies and national teams remained as pressing as ever -- and over the summer, BSUK found an answer.


The MK Dome has modern amenities and considerably more floor area than the gym at Upper Heyford

The MK Dome has modern amenities and considerably more floor area than the gym at Upper Heyford


All roads lead to Milton Keynes

On Saturday, October 1, the first Academy Softball session of the 2011-2012 winter season will take place at the MK Dons Academy Dome at Woughton on the Green in Milton Keynes, managed by the club's Sport and Education Trust.

The first softball national team training session at the Dome will be on October 16, and baseball Academy and national team sessions will start on the weekend of October 22-23.

Between now and the end of April 2012, the Dome will host six Academy Softball and Academy Baseball sessions, six training sessions for baseball national team players at various age levels and five national team sessions for softball.

In addition to the Dome itself, which has considerably more floor area than the gym at Upper Heyford, there is also the possibility of using astroturf and grass fields and classroom space at the site.

Although it will inevitably cost more at the Dome than at Upper Heyford, and slightly fewer weekend hours will be available, BSUK Joint CEO and Head of Development John Boyd has managed to negotiate terms that will provide the Academies and national teams with what they need for productive winter sessions.

Academy sessions will be held on Saturdays and will run from 1.00-8.00 pm, while national teams training sessions on Sundays will run from 1.00-5.00 pm. While the Dome won't be available until 1.00 pm on Sundays, mornings could be used by national team coaches for classroom sessions or for outdoor training if the weather is suitable.


Further development

Use of the Dome at Milton Keynes by baseball and softball looks likely to be part of a larger development for our sports in the city. Negotiations are currently taking place that could lead to the development of an outdoor national team training centre for baseball and softball at Woughton on the Green, with auxiliary facilities nearby at Conniburrow.

Funding for the development would come in part from BSUK's Sport England facilities grant, matched by other money available for baseball development in Milton Keynes.

The establishment of facilities for baseball and softball in Milton Keynes has received a great deal of support both from the MK Dons Sport and Education Trust and from Milton Keynes Council.

John Cove, Chief Executive of the Trust, said: “The MK Dons Sports and Education Trust (SET) is delighted to be able to help facilitate this important development. When we set up the charity we deliberately gave it a broad definition to ensure that we could use our influence and resources to benefit a range of sports. The partnership between us, BaseballSoftballUK and MK Council is a good example of that intention – may it continue long into the future.”

Paul Sanders, Assistant Director of Milton Keynes Council, said: “Over the last 18 months, the Council has forged a very positive relationship with BSUK which has led to the relocation of the national baseball and softball teams and Academies to Woughton on the Green. With the imminent development of new baseball/softball facilities within the borough and discussions regarding further facility developments at Woughton on the Green, we hope to build a lasting legacy of participation for the sports in Milton Keynes."


Dates at the Dome

Baseball and softball Academy and national team training sessions at Milton Keynes will take place on the following dates:

Academy Softball

October 1
October 15
November 5
February 4
March 3
April 21

Academy Baseball

October 22
November 12
February 11
February 25
March 10
March 31

Softball National Team Training

October 16
November 6
February 5
March 4
April 22

Baseball National Team Training

October 23
November 13
February 12
February 26
March 11
April 1


Continue reading:
John Mills, BSUK National Development Manager, has written a poignant blog entry looking back at the Upper Heyford era.



Photo galleries: MK Dons Academy Dome & Upper Heyford



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