The Shenley Training Centre is the state-of-art training ground of the Premier League club Arsenal FC. Located in Shenley, Hertfordshire, the multi-million pound project opened in 1999. Further upgrades have since been implemented and include an indoor training facility. In August 2006 an artillery shell was found near the site during development work, leading to the surrounding area being evacuated.
The ground received planning permission from Hertsmere Borough Council for construction on greenfield land adjacent to a local school in the Bell Lane area near Shenley in 1999. Before then Arsenal trained at University College London Sports Grounds, an adjacent facility which the club had used since 1961. It opened in October 1999.
The Training Centre covers an area of 143 acres (0.58 km2). In all, there are ten full-size pitches at the site. Inside the complex there are training and rehabilitation areas, physiotherapy and massage rooms and remedial and hydrotherapy pools. There are also squash/basketball courts, sauna, steam and weight rooms, a restaurant for staff and players, conference rooms, offices, classrooms and a TV studio to interview players and staff for Arsenal TV.
All ten pitches have undersoil drainage and an automated sprinkler system. In addition, two have undersoil heating. Each pitch is built to the exact specifications of the playing surface at Emirates Stadium. Three of the pitches are reserved for the Arsenal youth team, three for the reserves and three for the first team. The tenth pitch is the ‘match pitch’ where first team friendlies and Under-18 league fixtures are played.
A new medical and rehabilitation centre, completed in October 2011, positions Arsenal as the leading club in world football with regard to player welfare and keeps the club at the forefront of new developments through research and development. Extra training pitches are also set to be laid
The ground has attracted criticism from a number of groups. Local residents have criticised it on two occasions. In October 2001 it was reported at a parish council meeting that Arsenal players had not been involved with local initiatives, despite claiming during its planning phase that the ground would allow the club to develop links with the local community. Shenley Primary School reportedly failed to receive any visits from players despite repeated requests. The club responded by pointing to initiatives by its Ladies team to organise competitions at local grounds.
In May 2006 the Daily Telegraph newspaper criticised Arsenal’s failure to develop young English players following a UEFA Champions League match in which they did not use a single English player. The paper reported that youth team opportunities was one of the main reasons for the Shenley ground receiving planning permission, citing a statement by the club that: “The Bell Lane site is within the Arsenal ‘catchment area’ and the club already has a very active youth policy in the area. In particular, the club currently works closely with 12 local clubs which would be maintained and enhanced if the Bell Lane proposal were to go ahead.”
The England national football team have an agreement with Arsenal to use the ground when preparing for games at the nearby Wembley Stadium, and American Football side held their training camp at Shenley for the NFL International Series in London in October 2008, with Arsenal having ‘priced’ themselves out of hosting the New York Giants or the Miami Dolphins for the 2007 game.
The ground is also used for a number of local events, including a tournament between teams of work colleagues from eight local organisations which raised £1500 for charity in November 2009.