THE city’s biggest rugby club can dare to dream big as work begins on their new £1million home this month.

Oxford Harlequins RFC are all set to up sticks from Marston Ferry Road and move to Horspath Sports Ground.

The site will be home to an £800,000 artificial grass pitch which will be available for all rugby teams in Oxfordshire to use.

Quins have exchanged contracts with Oxford City Council on a 30-year lease of the site, including the development of the existing clubhouse and changing rooms at a cost of £200,000.

The club, who have two senior teams as well as more than 400 minis and juniors, are the custodians of a project to grow rugby in the county.

Quins chairman Neil Hopper is relishing the opportunity.

He said: "This is the end of a two-year process to get to this point.

"It's not just for our seniors and our 400 kids, but for all the clubs in Oxfordshire.

"It will cover all bases, schools and universities, and the wider community as well – it is a community asset.

"It's going to be a lot of hard work, but worth it.

"We want to make it a rugby hub and this seems the best way to do it."

Horspath Road is a familiar location for Quins, whose teams played there until 2006 following the merger of Oxford Marathon and Oxford Old Boys ten years previously.

After the senior sides returned from North Hinksey Sports Park in 2015 following a failed merger with Oxford RFC, the entire club, including the minis and juniors section, were based at Marston Ferry Road.

The Rugby Football Union (RFU) announced in 2015 it would be investing in 100 floodlit artificial surfaces and Quins’ application for Horspath proved successful.

The pitch is funded by the RFU and work will begin on the site, which is situated next to Oxford City Athletic Club, on May 14 in time for the new season in September.

Quins are hopeful of securing an RFU loan of £100,000 for the changing rooms and clubhouse, subject to Oxford City Council agreeing to be a guarantor.

An executive board meeting will be held on May 15 regarding the matter, while the club are looking to raise funds for the remainder of the project, already breaking the £2,000 mark on their GoFundMe page.

Mr Hopper added: "We ran out of space at Marston Ferry Road and this is tripling in space.

"Quins can be classed as nomadic because we could not go anywhere to pitch down a base.

"It's got to be a new era for the club – it's a 30-year lease.

"Whatever we do in the next six months builds that legacy and it will build from there."

The project is part of a wider scheme for Quins and Oxford City AC to take on the management and operation of Horspath Sports Ground.

It is not connected with the new Oxford United training ground project at the other side of Horspath Road, though both will be community facilities.

Deputy leader of Oxford City Council and board member for Leisure, Parks and Sport, Cllr Linda Smith, said: "The 30-year lease will really allow Harlequins to put down proper roots and invest in the facilities they need to grow as a club and to offer more sporting opportunities for Oxford and surrounding areas.

"The installation of the artificial pitch with money from the RFU is great news.

"I hope that councillors will agree to the council acting as a guarantor for their loan from the RFU to modernise the changing facilities."

As the host, Quins will receive 12 hours free use of the community asset at peak time, with the remainder managed by the RFU.

Steve Grainger, the RFU's rugby development director, said: "We hope the local community will embrace the new AGP at Oxford Harlequins RFC, and take advantage of the additional opportunities it provides people to play year-round rugby.

"Since launching our first sites in January 2017 we have seen local clubs, schools and teams from across the local areas all embracing the opportunity to play on the world-class facilities without weather, darkness or lack of pitch access limiting their ability to enjoy this great game."