Sorry if this gives any of you a sense of deja vu, but I've had to repost this article as part of solving the technical problems that I mentioned in an earlier post. The article remains the same, so if you're already read it, you're not missing out on any new content or stuff like that.
Portsmouth is a city that I publically despise, yet at the same time I still have a soft spot for it. As the capital city of east Hampshire (and maybe all of Hampshire, but I'm sure some Southampton people will refute that ;)), the Portsmouth people are a people who were proud of their rough, run-down and generally under-developed corner of the south coast. I use the past tense because, in the last few years, Portsmouth has seen some fairly dramatic changes that compensate for its other unpleasantries. The most notable of these changes is the construction of the centrepiece of the Gunwharf Quays shopping/entertainment complex.
Completed in late 2005, the Spinnaker Tower was origanally intended to be the focal point of the city's millennium celebrations. However, high-level bureaucratic incompentance ensured that the Spinnaker was delivered many years later than promised, and massively overbudget. But it was well worth waiting for; it's fantastic. It has the same appeal as the London Eye; it's an attractive structure that offers some brilliant views, although in this case you get to see the sea instead of the Houses of Parliment. It's interesting to note that you can't really see that much of Portmouth itself from the Tower, which was probably a concious design decision ;). However you do get views like this.
No post-processing here, kids, apart from a resize.
Back to ground level, Gunwharf Quays would still be a lovely development without the Spinnaker. Using land next reclaimed from the sea, Gunwharf really adds value to city (and therefore the south coast). It's a highly commercialised area with the usual mix of shops, a variety of restaurants, a cinema, bowling alley and some high-value flats to boot. It's even got the largest submerged underground car park in Europe as well, would you believe! Unsuprisingly they don't really harp on about that in their tourist promotion material :-p
Moving away from the coast, the centre of Portsmouth recently saw the well-documented demolition of the horrific, unused Tricorn Centre. This sizeable 60s shopping centre, lovely crafted out of the finest concrete, towered over the central shopping centre district. For as long as I can remember, the structure has been abandoned, and it's destruction was welcomed by all but a nominal, awkward few. Although the site of the Tricorn has only been replaced with a large car-park, the city feels much fresher without this symbol of economic failure on prominant display.
The next major development under way in Portsmouth is as a result of the work of this man.
Milan Mandaric (centre, blue jacket) is a hero amongst the citizens of Portsmouth, although his stock may have fallen a touch in recent times. When he bought the city's ailing football club, he injected a hefty amount of capital; and perhaps more importantly, a large amount of hope. Pompey (I'll refer to Portsmouth F.C as 'Pompey'; locals refer to the city itself as 'Pompey' as well) is a club that has spent many, many years barely escaping relegation from Division 1; only for the local press to confidently predict a certain promotion to the Premiership the next season 8-). I guess the local press for every non-Premiership club does the same, though.
Mandaric's efforts paid off. Pompey were able to secure some players who were way too good for Division 1, such as Paul Merson and Robert Prosinecki. They started to play some excellent football as well; they were a pleasure to watch. Combined with the brilliant atmosphere at Fratton Park and Division 1-price tickets, match tickets in those days were well worth the money. Pompey walked Division 1, and as you may well be aware have remained in the Premiership ever since (although that may not be the case for much longer).
However, the club's promotion to the Premiership gave the city another boost. You can't underestimate the pride that comes with seeing your team on Match of the Day every weekend, and this is what the people of Portsmouth feel. Pompey had the fans, the players, and the support of the city in place; all that they lacked was a worthy stadium for Premier League football.
This is soon to change. Fratton Park was pretty small even for a Division 1 ground, and it's nice to see that it's lasted for this long in the Premiership without too many complaints. However, Pompey could easily get 25,000 people in for each match, maybe as much as 35,000; so Fratton Park's ~20,000 capacity is hurting club revenues. Mandaric always knew this, and year or so ago began developing the land around the stadium, which used to be an old rail yard. First thing was the contruction of an industrial estate, which is something that the Fratton area of the city will greatly benefit from. There is now a long-winded plan to eventually construct a new stadium, which will be much more suitable for a Premiership club. Whether Pompey will still be in the Premiership by the time the stadium is built, who knows. I doubt it, given that they have an appalling squad at the moment, but at least it means Division 1 ticket prices again :-D
So in light of all these developments, why do I still despise the city? Good question, and to be honest I don't really know. I guess it stems from the fact that for so long, the city had only a handful of plus points, surrounded by some properly rough, oppressive areas. However, Portsmouth will never be the finest place in the world, even if the very-welcome developments continue, but as the city of my birth I guess I should really just love it for what it is :-p.