Kelly-Ann Kiernan, News Editor
Friday, September 28, 2012
A STADIUM designed to host top flight football and major music concerts could be built on land next to the A1(M).
"As an enthusiastic supporter of the club, I would love to see it happen."
The Comet has learned the owners of Knebworth Park and House have held preliminary discussions with Stevenage FC chairman Phil Wallace, music promoters and two councils on the major project.
The land had been under option to a developer for the past 10 years but since the deal expired in March, Henry and Martha Lytton Cobbold have been seeking alternative options to raise funds for the urgent restoration of Knebworth House.
The Knebworth House Education and Preservation Trust has a £9.2m shortfall and the house is on English Heritage’s Priority Buildings at Risk List.
The plan is to build on a small section of the 55 acre Greenbelt site.
Henry Lytton Cobbold told the Comet: “We’ve been looking for ideas for use for this land at junction 7 of the A1(M) for 20 years and I can think of nothing I would rather do than to give the football club the chance to expand on their success and also use the venue for music events.
“Football and music seasons are opposite each other and if a case could be made for a facility to benefit both then I would like to pursue it.
“But there would be a number of hoops to jump though first, not least finding someone to build the facility. And, of course, there are a number of important planning issues.
“As an enthusiastic supporter of the club, however, I would love to see it happen.”
Chairman of Stevenage FC Mr Wallace said: “It’s a long way ahead. If I wasn’t thinking three to five years ahead we wouldn’t have got to where we are now. If I’m looking ahead and I think about going into the Championship then you have to start to wonder about a new stadium.
“With a new stadium, you come in starting from scratch and you can build a much better commercial venue. [The Lamex Stadium] wasn’t designed to hold upwards of 5,000 people at a time.”
Moving to a new ground would be a big step, and an expensive one too, for the club.
It would also depend on crowd sizes at Boro.
Stevenage’s average crowd size last season was 3,558, which was up from 2,898 the previous term, but this year, after four home league matches, the average crowd size is just 2,642, the lowest in the league by 600.
After two promotions in three years, Stevenage now compete in League 1.
It is a level at which they face sides, clubs such as Notts County and Tranmere Rovers.
“If you don’t get the attendances then it becomes difficult to stay in League 1 never mind the Championship,” Mr Wallace said.
“You have to capture the imagination of local people. We’re making progress but it’s not easy.”