JUNE 12, 2020 will forever remain a pivotal date in the Bradford (Park Avenue) story. It was the day the club gained a 35-year lease on their Horsfall Stadium home which enabled them to begin major plans of redevelopment.

Despite currently residing in the States, owner Gareth Roberts has always held his hometown close to his heart with giving back constantly at the forefront of his mind.

For the Holme Wood lad, results on the pitch have, at times, played second fiddle to his number one priority of creating a community sporting hub in the city.

With help from the likes of Bradford Council, Sport England, the Football Stadium Improvement fund and the Horsfall Community Trust, the project at the BD6 venue is finally coming into fruition.

Even through the pandemic, the excellent 3G pitch was installed and a security perimeter fence to protect the newfound asset was built.

And the work does not stop there. A hospitality suite, new floodlights, a changing room block and a spruce up of the pavilion are still to come before the end of the year.

Speaking from his office in Dallas on the eve of the stadium reopening on a full-time basis, Roberts said: “The stadium (on matchday) is going to be a five-star experience.

“We want proper cafes, coffee bars, it is not going to be your old-fashioned football stadium.

“In Manchester, there is a sporting hub on every corner, Bradford has all these scattered sports fields and parks. Having this 3G pitch fits right in with the new philosophy of trying to create community sports hubs.

“All this billionaire status is nonsense; I am just someone who believes in Bradford and wants to do something for the city.

“It is kind of sad how it has deteriorated over my lifetime. I don’t like that because I still think there is something special about the place.

“This is a charity project, we have set it up as a Community Interest Company which manages the stadium and handles the different needs of Avenue, West Bowling A.R.L.F.C. and Bradford Airedale Athletics Club.

“It also makes the stadium available to other groups. The Bulls (who have been training at Horsfall recently) like it, we have to throw them out every night."

“We want maximum use for local people who don’t have a lot. I want something that is sustainable.

“I think it will get very busy eventually. Once Covid is over, we can get on with all the little improvements we were trying to make before.”

As far as Avenue’s first team is concerned, Roberts was pleased with the efforts of everyone involved in the difficult 2020-21 season.

The Avenue chief recalled one conversation he had with the Leader of the Labour Party in the aftermath of that thrilling 3-3 draw with Chester.

“I was on a Zoom call with Keir Starmer (Arsenal supporter) and I told him that we were more entertaining than the Premier League game that was going on at the same time.”

Unfortunately, that match against the Seals turned out to be Avenue’s last with their league collapsing because clubs were financially unable to continue without additional grant funding.

Roberts feels change needs to happen to the structure of the National League in the long-term to ensure a situation like this does not occur again.

Speaking before the club were fined, he added: “It has been, as we say over here, a goat rodeo.

“You have to have some management skills to run a football club. Unfortunately, in our league there is a lot of that lacking.

“The problem you have got is we are in the middle of amateur/semi-professional community clubs and aspirational clubs who have been demoted and want to get back there.

“We need to put a divide between the North and South and the National League. The National League is full of clubs that still want to get promoted to the Football League.

“Their requirements are different. If they want to put lots of money into that they can, but that doesn’t work for smaller clubs.”

With Horsfall void of any spectators during the 10 league games, Bradford, like many others, provided fans with live streaming. Roberts thinks this is the future.

He said: “We are planning to live stream the games in any event. It is just sensible. Given the tail end of the virus, we will be able to do that without any problems.

“I think it is coming full-time for the future anyway for clubs at this level. It is ridiculous going down on a coach to Hereford for four hours.

“We can even open the clubhouse, stream it from there and let people have the game day experience.”

It has not just been the stadium itself that has seen improvements, Avenue’s rebranded academy has also grown.

After coming into existence last July, teams from a wide range of age groups have been established and a course for male and female 16-18-year-olds, in conjunction with Bradford College, combining education and football will start in September.

“We had some false starts (with the youth section),” added Roberts.

“It is very hard to find good people, we have been very fortunate in the last year to find Thomas (McStravick).

“We have got a large number of youngsters playing every week on the 3G pitch, that is only going to grow. That is a big plus to the community.

“At the same time, we will get a gradually better first team because we will have more fans and youngsters coming through the ranks, the next Mason Greenwood (Wibsey-born) maybe!”