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York City chairman calls for capacity hike at new community stadium
YORK City chairman Jason McGill is lobbying council bosses to extend the capacity of the planned new community sports stadium to 8,000.
McGill is also hoping the Monks Cross arena would then have the scope to expand again and house as many as 12,000 supporters to aid York City Knights’ chances of attaining Super League status.
That would mean the site accommodating twice as many fans as is proposed under the 6,000-seated venue plans but still fewer than the impressive new grounds the Minstermen have visited for fixtures at South Yorkshire neighbours Doncaster and Rotherham this season.
City, lying 14th in the League Two standings prior to this afternoon’s home match with Dagenham & Redbridge, boast an average league gate of 4,283 this season and McGill believes the traditional rise in attendance a new stadium provides, coupled with a greater potential for success on the pitch, will mean the planned capacity would prove insufficient.
The Football League are also understood to support the City chairman’s stance, with McGill pointing out: “Promotion has made us reconsider our capacity requirements in terms of our future ambitions and aspirations.
“A capacity of 6,000 was required to be accepted into the Football League. But, now, if we look at our crowds and the 30 per cent minimum uplift in attendances a new stadium generates according to research, we would be near 6,000 so I think we’ve got to be looking at 8,000.
“That’s appropriate and sensible and you would then look at having the scope to increase that to 12,000 should the Knights aspire to becoming a Super League club. Our capacity at Bootham Crescent is 8,000 so all we are really talking about is replicating the size of our current home.”
McGill believes the cost of increasing the stadium’s capacity need not be any higher than the sum already set aside for construction expenses.
He has also been informed there would be no need for another planning application to be submitted, adding: “The construction industry needs a shot in the arm and I think, in a competitive market, it is possible to negotiate a price to build an 8,000-seater stadium at the same cost that has been allocated for a 6,000 one. We have also been advised a new planning application would not have to be made.”
McGill added it was “massively important” to the Oakgate project that the judicial review period’s deadline had now passed, meaning the plans for the stadium and retail enabling developments can no longer be challenged in court.
“It’s been a long, drawn-out process since 2003 and anybody could have raised a legal challenge against the application and business case but nobody did,” he said.
“That means it’s all systems go now for the stadium and I’m led to believe that the construction for the retail side of the scheme will begin in December.”
McGill is in the process of assembling a small team of experts to assist himself, stadium development director Ian McAndrew and community development manager Paula Stainton in coming months.
Architectural consultant Terry Ward, who was involved in the new stadiums at Chesterfield, Shrewsbury and Rotherham as well as the redevelopment of Twickenham, is already on board and talks have also been held with another individual, responsible in the past for maximising the commercial benefits when clubs move from old grounds into new ones.
A legal consultant, meanwhile, will be appointed to represent the football club in all dealings with the City of York Council, including potential lease agreements.
“The council will have their own people as well but I would not be acting in the best interests of York City if we did not appoint experts in these areas to advise us as the project progresses,” McGill explained.
The City chief went on to praise the work of City of York Council leader James Alexander and cabinet member for leisure, culture and tourism Sonja Crisp, saying: “They’ve been absolutely brilliant in getting us to this stage.
“All the meetings we’ve had have been constructive. We are now looking at the detail of what is needed in the stadium in terms of what the football and rugby clubs require but also the community and all the interested parties who will be involved in this process.
“We want the development to be inclusive and to provide facilities and community benefits for the majority of people in York.”