EXETER City Football Club has confirmed that work will start on its stadium improvement project this summer - after more than two years of complex negotiations.
Contracts to commence the work have been signed and developers plan to begin construction next month.
Julian Tagg, Exeter City FC chairman, said: “We are delighted to announce that contracts have finally been signed for the stadium improvement works at St James’ Park. This is the culmination of over two-and-a-half years of incredibly complex negotiations.”
The project began with a feasibility study in 2006, which led to a planning proposal in 2011. This was unfortunately aborted following a number of problems. The current scheme, with developer partner Yelverton Properties Developments Ltd, was instigated in 2014. It has overcome many setbacks and delays, including two substantial legal challenges.
The Old Grandstand, which was built in 1926 and is owned by Exeter City Council, would have needed extensive repairs, and possibly faced permanent closure in the future if it had failed an inspection by the Safety Advisory Group (the organisation responsible for stadium safety). The improvements will cost in the region of £3.5 million.
The new stand will offer a much enhanced fan experience, with no pillars to obstruct the view and vastly improved toilets and refreshment facilities. Exeter City Council has sold the freehold of the area of land behind the Big Bank at the club to the developer, who has also acquired adjoining land. Student accommodation of 312 beds will be built on the site.
Prior to this the club had leased the land (behind the Big Bank) from the city council. The club has surrendered the remaining four years of that lease to enable the sale of the freehold. The city council will use the proceeds of the land sale to fund the redevelopment.
As part of the scheme, new changing rooms will also be constructed under the IP Office stand. Replacement toilets and refreshment facilities will be provided for the Big Bank.
Following feedback from public exhibitions, and with strong support from the Supporters Trust, the club board has decided to make a contribution of £265,000 towards a shortfall in the project funds to improve the away end. This includes the purchase of a stand from Barnet FC.
The provisional programme for the works is as follows:
June - November 2017: construction of the Big Bank toilets, new changing rooms and associated works.
November 2017: demolition of the existing Old Grandstand followed by construction of the new stand and external works. This phase will also include the demolition and construction of the new Away End stand. The project is due to finish by October 2018.
Martin Weiler, chair of Exeter City Supporters’ Trust, said: “This is a massive step forward for the club which will mean that facilities for both home and away fans will be vastly improved. As a supporter-owned club we are delighted that these enhancements are now going to take place.”
Fans with season tickets for the Old Grandstand will be relocated to the main stand. Non-season ticket holders will be in the main stand or the Big Bank. The capacity for away fans will be very restricted during the construction period.
Some items of historic interest will be removed from the Old Grandstand for display at St James’ Park. The club, with the kind permission of Exeter City Council, is also exploring ways in which fans could purchase seats and other memorabilia. An announcement will be made about this in due course.