BUILDING work will officially get underway tomorrow on a controversial new luxury hotel at the home of Hampshire cricket .
The Ageas Bowl is finally ready to undergo a multi-million pound redevelopment to include a new 4-star Hilton Hotel, state-of-the-art media centre, restaurants, a spa and conference facilities.
Developers hope the stunning new facilities could be ready in time for major international fixtures including the 2014 Test against India and the One Day International tie with Australia in 2015.
When the ground is broken tomorrow, it will represent the final piece in the jigsaw in a long running attempt to transform the site in to a world-class cricket ground.
As previously reported, the scheme has been beset by delays while controversy raged over whether it should be given the go ahead.
But work can finally start on the last stage of the stunning venue after the a taxpayer-funded £40m bail-out was signed off by council chiefs earlier this month.
Once the final £48m development is finished, the 25,000-seater West End venue will be the country's only “model Test match ground”.
The six-storey property, operated by Sanguine Hospitality, will feature 171 rooms and four suites. Some 85 of the rooms will double up as corporate hospitality venues on match days.
A separate plan was also rubber-stamped by the council to pay for a £30m hotel at the ground, funds for which would be transferred on completion of the hotel complex.
Critics have labelled spending council cash on the venture as “reckless and far too risky”, after a council report revealed the perilous state of finances at the parent firm.
Opposition to the hotel also came to a head in 2010 when rival hoteliers launched a legal challenge against the proposals.
But the leader of Eastleigh Borough Council, Cllr Keith House , said this week: “This is a very important project for the whole borough. As well as creating jobs for local people and opportunities for local business , it gives the council significant new rental income to protect vital local services.
“We are committed to making sure that our residents benefit from the partnership, through the chance to watch and take part in sport. The prestigious world class venue will also help to keep Eastleigh on the sporting map.”
James McNeil, a partner at Paris Smith who has acted on behalf of The Ageas Bowl, added: “This crucial deal has taken over three years to come to fruition and has involved numerous parties and their advisers who have all acted together in a commercial and pragmatic way in order to preserve The Ageas Bowl's ability to hold International Test Matches and to ensure that the venue and Hampshire Cricket now go from strength to strength.”