Peterborough United Co-owner excited to create ‘cultural centre’ with new university partnership

Peterborough United Co-owner Stewart Thompson has revealed his excitement at creating a new cultural centre in the city with the partnership between the club and the city’s new university.

By Ben Jones
Thursday, 23rd September 2021, 5:59 am
Posh Co-owner Stewart Thompson. Credit: Peterborough United.
Posh Co-owner Stewart Thompson. Credit: Peterborough United.

ARU Peterborough is set to welcome its first cohort of 2,000 students in September 2022 on its embankment site, with building work already well underway on the former site of the Wirrina Car Park in Bishop’s Road.

The capacity will then rise to 12,500 students by 2030, with the campus consisting of three teaching buildings and two research centres.

All of the courses offered at the technical university have been specifically designed alongside employers to make sure they provide students with the skills necessary to the specific needs of employers.

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Peterborough United Chief Executive Bob Symns and ARU Peterborough Principal Professor Ross Renton sign the Memorandum of Understanding. Photo: Joe Dent.

The university has also promised to work closely with Posh after the two parties signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) last month.

The MoU is a long-term collaboration between the Posh and ARU Peterborough to use their common values and goals to improve life for people in Peterborough. The club will assist in reaching out into the community to encourage wider participation in higher education, be that at ARU Peterborough or elsewhere, and to provide research opportunities or potential placements for students in areas such as Sport Science, Business, and Media.

Posh Co-owner Dr Neale has previously he suggested that the university could be a recruiting ground for the club and that space in the new stadium could be used as a technology incubator, he said: “One of the things we would like in the stadium, Stewart and myself, is we’re very keen on early to mid stage tech companies.

“We could have a whole slew of uni-led companies in sports science spinning into our tech accelerator. That would be a great benefit for employment opportunities in the local region.

“It could be everything from a physical building hosting early stage tech companies to mentoring and coaching and potential investment, as well as connections within the wider tech community in wider Cambridgeshire and throughout the UK.

Mr Thompson added: “I am really excited about working with the university. I was involved on the ground with what the MOU would look like. I think we’ve been clear that we believe that this stadium we are building is a multi-use facility that happens to have a football stadium in it.

“That answers the whole question of can we sustain 20,000 fans, do we need to do it that big? It’s in the context of a larger plan, imagine the one side that is facing the university becomes buildings the university can use and imagine guest lectures. I’ve always envisaged, as a tech-investor, what we could do with having a place that can be the pilot test centre for digital media and artificial intelligence.

“When we look at what we can do with the university for rehab medicine, training in sports management; the whole concept of having the football club available for research, development, skills and training is something I’m very much supportive of and very excited about and it puts out stadium in the centre of the city to very good use, with very good partners.”

Currently, Posh are in the planning process of building their new stadium, with the preferred location being on the embankment, which would see them close to the university. This is all part of Posh’s plan to create a culture centre in the city on the embankment.

Mr Thompson added: “Peterborough is at a really interesting crux. I’ve been here for nearly four years now, which is amazing, and in those four years; my view of the city is what is happening at Fletton Quays; younger professional families living in a culturally interesting environment and it’s not just a city growing older, it’s a vibrant community.

“It’s interesting too that there is a centre of town being built. I’m getting to learn more about the communities surrounding Peterborough but there still needs to be a cultural centre for people to gravitate to. We want to be part of developing that and bringing that heart of the city concept; with culture, university, retail, religion and sports/fitness all in one place and I think that’s really huge.

Speaking in a recent interview, Mr Tompson also confirmed that the new air dome at the club’s training ground at Nene Park Academy, on Oundle Road, is progressing well and is set to be completed by the end of the year.

The 63m dome, over a new indoor pitch, has allowed Posh’s Academy to gain Category 2 status; allowing them to command extra fees for their young players produced and access to higher quality youth football divisions.