Looking down on 80 acres of mud and rubble doesn’t sound like the most inspiring experience. Yet such a view can leave you impressed, when you know what those acres will become.
Manchester City invited journalists to fly over a changing landscape around the Ethiad Stadium. The club are creating a £100m football academy and training ground complex, out of land left contaminated by years of heavy industry.
I was one of seven people, ushered into a helicopter, on the day building work officially began. From more than 1000ft, the site looks like a mining operation. Diggers and cranes have removed tonnes of soil, giant mounds of which sit being decontaminated.
Earth that now looks brown, from the air, was purple when it was first excavated.
Joining us to stare at this huge ‘brownfield’ site is one of the club’s executives, Jon Stemp. He explains that it’s taken a year to remove what previous occupants of the land left behind - including chemicals, metals, and tar pits.
Jon points to a huge array of tubes, being buried in the ground, as part of a more environmentally conscious future for the area. He tells us they form part of giant rainwater collection system, which will irrigate the academy’s pitches. The development will change more than just the environment’s fortunes. At its peak, construction will provide jobs for hundreds of people. The club promise that 70% of those posts will go to workers from surrounding communities. After circling the site for 10 minutes, we return to the ground with our guide explaining how this once neglected area will become “a beacon”. He says it can show “what you can do, in an place where people haven’t always believed they can do things.” With £100m to spend, Manchester City can do quite a lot.