The York Council has confirmed that the new LNER Community Stadium will not now be completed until 2021. The latest problems, for the jinx hit project, apparently relate to drainage. Remedial works will take several weeks to complete.
At one level this makes little difference, as spectators are not allowed into sports events at present. It might, however, prevent York City switching their (behind closed doors) matches to the new stadium pitch which, in turn, could delay their leaving Bootham Crescent.
The start of the Rugby League season is also creeping closer while tickets for the Rugby World Cup games – now less than a year away – are already on sale.
A further threat to the project is now emerging.
The complex operator GLL – who also run the Council’s Energise sports centre in Cornlands Road – have said that the COVID restrictions have impacted on their finances. The suggestion is that this will mean job losses and possibly the permanent closure of some facilities. GLL are a social enterprise company with operations across most of the country.
The sports centre and pool at Monk Cross – although completed several weeks ago – have yet to open.
With the cinema also now closed, units like the NHS centre and library locked up and “no takers” for the restaurant units, the whole business plan for the complex now looks increasingly shaky.
“The construction of the York Stadium Leisure Complex is practically complete but with some fairly significant works remaining to the estate highway. The core building fabric works are now complete, with only a small number of trades still working on site to progress the final stages of minor works, known in the industry as ‘snagging’”.
“For the York Stadium Leisure Complex to open to both the public, and all tenants, the Stadium must, amongst other things, gain all required safety and licence certification.
The systems test has now been held and work is now ongoing from that in order to finalise the safety certificate and safety documentation.
There are likely to be a number of financial issues and settlement of claims to resolve after the stadium is completed, that will take a number of months to resolve and these may result in some financial impact to the Council.
There are also a number of other COVID related matters to finalise however opening is still expected across the stadium and leisure site in autumn 2020”.
These comments help to explain the media comment last week which said that a York City match scheduled for next week (v Chorley on 6th October) could not take place at the stadium.
Leaving COVID restrictions aside, there is some speculation about whether Bootham Crescent can be brought back into use as it also needs to have a up to date safety certificate.
After a successful final friendly match yesterday (a 0-3 success at Notts County), City face a trip to Warrington on 3rd October. Spectators are not allowed at matches in Warrington at present (click)
Such restrictions are also likely to apply in York at the scheduled beginning of the National League North (NLN) season, with some clubs planning to “stream” matches to supporters. Such a facility requires the agreement of the broadcast license holder and of the football authorities.
We understand that Clubs have not as yet received confirmation from the government that the lost income, from playing behind closed doors matches, would be refunded. In the NLN, clubs with part time players are only liable for wages after the first game of the season has been played. So clarification is now urgently required (York City have a full time playing squad).
As for the potential additional liability on the Council, it remains unclear whether this relates solely to the floorspace which the Council agreed to underwrite, and which currently remains unlet.
If it is anything more than that, then taxpayers should be told how much the scale of the additional risk is now.
The Council has budgeted to invest £14.4 million in the project. A Section 106 (developer) contribution of £15.3 million has also been allocated.
York City FC will pay £2 million towards the £42 million total cost of the development when they sell Bootham Crescent.
It seems that work on the LNER Community Stadium has finally been completed. With York City’s 20/21 fixture list due to be published on Tuesday, fans will be wondering how many will be able to get into the stadium from 3rd October start date?
No details of the required “test events” have been published and it is also unclear when the sports centre will open.
It is 16 years since the football club were given notice to quit Bootham Crescent by the then owner.
Members of Parliament have written to the Sports Minister asking when clubs like York City will be able to reopen their grounds.
The MP’s highlighted the perilous position of many non league clubs finances.
Uncertainty – about when paying customers will be able to attend games – and in what numbers – is putting some clubs under threat of closure.
The MPs pointed to the imminent start of the pre-season “friendly” programme.
Although neither of the local MPs signed the 21st August letter, York Outer MP Julian Sturdy said he supported a more general plea made in a letter sent on 17th August and subsequently backed this up with an Email last Monday. There has been no word from York Central MP Rachel Maskell in whose constituency the present York City/York Knights ground is located.
Currently the expectation is that, when the National Leagues resume in October, around 30% of the seats may be available for supporters.
There is a particular problem for York City FC who will manage the new LNER community stadium at Monks Cross. Before they can take full occupation a “test” event involving 3000 spectators must take place. This would allow a safety certificate for the 8500 seater stadium to be issued.
There has been a suggestion – as a result of the health restrictions on capacity which are likely to apply for a few months at least – that certification for a smaller capacity might be possible.
There has been no word from the stadium owners – the York Council – about how and when this might be achieved.
There are 6 weeks to go until the start of the football season for clubs like York City
It is understandable that residents want to know when the £42 million community stadium complex will be fully open for business.
Taxpayers will point out that around £10 million of the costs have come out of their pockets.
Originally scheduled for a 2012 opening, delays dogged the project.
Even after contracts had been signed for a June 2019 opening “labour shortages”
meant that the actual stadium opening was put back to the autumn 2019 and then
to the Spring 2020.
It seemed that the dates were firming up as the IMAX cinema admitted its first paying customers before Christmas while an excitable gaggle of Councillors started tweeted pictures of the “finished” stadium.
The Knights Rugby Club said that their first home fixture of the new season would take place at the stadium on 9th February. The stadium was also set to host a big “double header” with Super League clubs Toronto and Wakefield facing off on the 22nd March.
Questions at a York City supporters forum led to a statement from an executive councillor last week who confirmed that a transport plan was in place. It would get large crowds to the out of town, 8000 capacity, stadium site. (Currently, York City matches attract around 2500 spectators)
However, it remained unclear whether joint entry/transport tickets would be sold and information about public transport capacity was scarce, given that the opening (rugby) fixture was less than a month away.
A “trial” dinner event was then cancelled, and the Knights said that their 9th February fixture might have to be moved to Bootham Crescent.
We think that the stadium will be an asset for the City. When the interest level stabilises, after the first couple of games, transport arrangements should also be adequate.
We are less convinced about the viability of some of the other elements of the development not least the additional swimming pool.
But we are, where we are.
The Council and its contractors should now be able to give a clear programme of actions leading up to firm commissioning and hand-over dates.
NB. Local side York Acorn Rugby got off to a winning start
on Saturday in their cup match against Hammersmith Hills Hoist. The score line
was 36 points to 14. There were no problems accommodating the crowd at the Thanet
Road Stadium (!)