Liam Osborne, Sports reporter
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Boro chairman says development of stadium is vital for future of the club
THE Comet can reveal an exclusive artist’s impression of the proposed new North Stand at the Lamex Stadium.
Stevenage FC chairman, Phil Wallace, has released the image in order to encourage potential commercial investment to come forward and allow the development to commence.
The image shows a completely new 2,000 all-seater stand that Wallace wants to signify Boro’s transition from a former non-league outfit to that of an ambitious, forward-thinking Football League club.
The total cost of the project is £1.25million, with 50 per cent of that hopefully being funded by a Football Stadia Improvement Grant (FSIG) from the Football Foundation – the UK’s largest sports charity which is financed by the Premier League, The FA and Government.
The new build would look similar to the South Stand from within the stadium – except for being a few rows deeper.
Wallace hopes construction will begin no later than 2012, but if investors get behind the project earlier then it would be a case of getting work underway as soon as possible.
The kind of investment Wallace needs to step forward is an application within the stand that can provide a commercial return for the club to repay the investment required – such as a medical facility, a health club, hotel or sports bar – that would be situated in the 12,000 square feet of space that will be created on the main A602, with private car parking behind the existing East terrace already available.
“Our existing stadium says ‘non-league’, and if you think non-league, that’s where you’re going to end up eventually,” Wallace told The Comet.
“The directors can fund the team to success but we play in a council-owned stadium that just about made Football League approval last year and the council can’t afford to bring it up to the next level. However the club must aspire to move forward, we cannot stay where we are and just hope for the best.
“We are in a play-off spot to go into League One at the present time and if we get into League One, what would be the point in getting there without wanting to then get into the Championship?
“We haven’t got there yet but our position tells us we need to be aware that our stadium must track our position in the league.
“You look at other clubs’ stadiums such as Watford, Ipswich, Norwich and MK Dons and think: why can’t we do that?
“I want to get all the supporters and local people onside as this has got to happen for us. Now we are in the Football League we need to turn the thinking away from non-league and into that of a Football League club with ambition – otherwise what is the point?
“I want to win the hearts and minds of the local people and hopefully attract a business that can use the space we create and provide the commercial return we need to access the funding.
“If we were sixth from bottom then this would not seem as important, but considering the position we are in this is the perfect time to drive the project forward.
“The new development would improve the feel-good factor in the town and the football club should sit right at the heart of Stevenage and be a shining example of progressive ambition and hope.”
Wallace has met with Stevenage Borough Council on three occasions in the last year to discuss the project, including once alongside team manager Graham Westley, and despite the council’s eagerness to support the plan, it’s clear that finding a means to finance the remaining 50 per cent is proving a difficult task to solve given the cuts to central funding and the generally poor state of Britain’s economy.
If, and when sufficient investment is found, Wallace estimates planning will last approximately six months with construction lasting perhaps another six months.