Community Stadium – still unanswered questions

As we predicted several months ago, the new Community Stadium will not open until 2017 at the earliest.

An update report (click) has been published by the Council. It will be considered next Thursday.

Community Stadium costs funding specification

The Council has confirmed that there have been no changes to the specification, costings and funding sources agreed by the, then Labour dominated, Council in September 2014 (see above).

The demolition of the existing stadium and Waterworld building is to be fast tracked – as is an extension to the Park and Ride site – at a cost of £2 million. The Council intends to undertake some advanced design work on steel work and piling.

The Council have announced – for the fifth time – that the Yearsley pool has been “saved” although they remain coy about the source of any ongoing subsidy that will be required.

Perhaps surprisingly they continue to claim that the £12 million replacement for Waterworld will go ahead despite growing evidence that demand for public  swimming provision is the City has now been fully satisfied.

A contract for the stadium scheme is now expected to be awarded in January 2016. In the meantime the Council will attempt to negotiate away covenants on the use of the land – thought to have been inserted by a previous owner (work which should have been done three years ago)

Worryingly it appears that some of the proposed tenants for premises in the stadium complex have not yet signed up.

The Council are still forecasting a 12 to 14 month construction time table for the Stadium (Feb 2016 – April 2017). We doubt very much that a stadium of this size and complexity can be built, fitted out and – critically – get an appropriate safety certificate in that timescale.

 It would be a major achievement to have it ready for the beginning of the 2017/18 football season (August 2017).

So a scheme that was in 2010 to be fully funded from S106 contributions from the adjacent Vanguard development, now looks set to cost taxpayers £8 million.

The hard work in finding funding for the stadium had been done by the time that Labour took control of the Council in May 2011. They dithered over the specification for the stadium for over a year before finally securing outline planning permission for the retail enabler.  

A bizarre design/build/operate contract was then drawn up which fell foul of European procurement rules, adding two years to the process

Planning permission for the new stadium and commercial complex was finally granted only in April this year and it was June before the Secretary of State indicated that he would not ”call in” the scheme.Community Stadium Nov 2014

There is a lot of evidence that some Labour Councillors simply didn’t understand the risks that were being taken. Indeed yesterday one of their politicians took to the media to announce – completely erroneously – that the scheme would now cost £41 million (not £37m).

Unfortunately – for taxpayers – there is no way back to the 2010 scheme which would have seen a stadium, athletics facility and some community space built within a £15 million cost envelope. It would have been completed  in 2014 at the latest.

Now we will have to wait another 5 months before the final costs are known and confirmation provided that all the proposed tenants have all signed on the dotted line

Yearsley Pool may get gym extension

Yearsley Pool

Yearsley Pool

Council papers, being considered at a meeting being held on 7th June, suggest that a gym may be constructed next to the Yearsley swimming pool.

The pool had been under threat following an announcement by the last Labour administration that it planned to switch swimming provision to a new location at the Community Stadium. A new pool there would have replaced both “Waterworld” (which has already closed) and Yearsley.

Now a scrutiny committee report has revealed that Nestle – who own the car park and land next to the Yearsley pool – may construct a fitness facility there for use by its employees.

It was the lack of an additional – non swimming – income stream which led to Yearsley requiring a £300,000 a year taxpayers subsidy to keep operating.

What impact the gym plan may have on the viability of the stadium pool and fitness facility remains to be seen.

The scrutiny committee, set up to look into ways of reducing the Yearsley subsidy, will have to be reconstituted if it is to continue. Several of its original members were not re-elected at the recent Council elections.

The coalition agreement, on the policies that will be pursued by the Council during the next 4 years, guarantees the future of the Yearsley Pool.

More York Council Audit reports published

Waterworld subsidy among those to be investigated further.

Waterworld - closed by the York Council last Novemebr

Waterworld – closed by the York Council last November

The subsidy requested by Waterworld contractor Greenwich Leisure is among a number of reports published today

The auditors brief is described as;

, “Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL) ran the Waterworld leisure centre on behalf of the council before it was demolished as part of the larger project to build a new community stadium. Each month GLL submitted monthly accounts which showed both the income and expenditure for Waterworld with the council re-imbursing GLL for the losses incurred during the month. This agreement lasted between April and November 2014 until Waterworld closed.

The purpose of the audit was to confirm the council is paying the correct amount of money to GLL although there were no concerns that the figures paid to GLL were not representative of the costs of providing Waterworld. The audit reviewed the following areas:

  • A sample of large value invoices in order to confirm that expenditure related to Waterworld, the period in question, the amount was correct and the invoice had been authorised.
  • The cashing up process in order to confirm that all income was banked in full.
  • The monthly transaction sheets sent by GLL to support the subsidy payments made by the council were accurate, complete and had been reviewed by staff at the council”.

Greenwich are involved in the contract for the new Community Stadium.

A full list of audits completed is (click to view):-

York swimming pools attendance figures shock

Yearsley still second most popular facility in City

Waterworld - closed by the York Council this month

Waterworld – closed by the York Council this month

Figures released today, by the York Council under Freedom of Information legislation, cast further doubts on the wisdom of jettisoning the Yearsley swimming pool.

The figures reveal that last year Yearsley had 118,611 users compared to 110,231 at Waterworld (which has now been closed by the Council) and fewer again at the new York Sports Village.

The latter, in its first full year of operation, had 110,218 customers making it the least popular swimming facility in the City.

Swimming pool attendances and subsidy costs Click to enlarge

Swimming pool attendances and subsidy costs Click to enlarge

The new pool does, however, seem to have attracted some additional customers as total swims in the City (excluding private and school based pools) rose from 508,125 in 2012/13 to 522,65 last year.

The figures also reveal that swimming receives a £1/2 million subsidy each year from taxpayers. That is relatively modest comparison to historical investment levels.

While Yearsley is the most expensive pool to operate, it doesn’t enjoy any cross subsidy from other activities – like fitness and studio work – which accounted for most of the income at the other pool sites.

Without the cooperation of Nestle, who own the surrounding land, it would be impossible to increase the range of sports catered for at the Yearsley site.

All in all, closing both Waterworld and Yearsley and replacing the facilities with a single – sports village style  clone pool – does increasingly seem to be a major misjudgement by the Council.

Residents are clearly looking for a wider range of water activities and locations in the City.

Increased cost of Community Stadium is bad news for taxpayers

Future of Waterworld and Yearsley pools under threat


Labour are circulating a glossy brochure ahead of the publication of a report on the future of leisure provision in the City.  Private briefings to staff and media have raised serious issues about the future of swimming and other facilities in the City.

The project will now cost £37 million in total with Greenwich Leisure (who have operated Waterworld for the last 3 years) taking on responsibility for all major sporting and swimming facilities in the City.

Greenwich Leisure are a CIC although the level of local York engagement – if any – in their management decisions and structure has yet to be announced.

Community Stadium

The project will cost taxpayers £8 million more than originally budgeted. It had been expected that a 6000 seater stadium and replacement athletics track could be built for the £12 million contribution from the John Lewis development.  The Council would have contributed only the value of the Huntington Stadium site (conservatively assessed as £4.1 million). The Football Foundation would have put in the £2 million that it had loaned against the value of a redeveloped Bootham Crescent.

Later Labour said that they would spend the £4 million contingency included in the Councils budget for the project. This had been included as a potential loan which would be repaid from stadium income.

Now Labour are stating that they will borrow an additional £4 million bringing the taxpayers contribution up to £8 million in total, with the stadium capacity increased to 8000 (it costs roughly £1 million for every additional bank of 1000 seats).

It is highly unlikely that such an additional burden could be passed on to the Football and Rugby clubs with details of their rental agreements not having yet been revealed.

At a time when the campaign forsafe standing” – backed by the Liberal Democrats is gaining momentum – local fans will be bemused that the design does not appear to provide for rail seats (although this modification could still be made)

Council taxpayers will be responsible for the debt repayment charges on the amount borrowed which will be around £600,000 a year. It is far from clear where this money will come from although some additional “commercial elements” have been designed into the scheme.

Given the controversy about out of city centre shopping, this raises doubts about how long the planning process might take and with it the ability of any contractor to meet a July 2016 opening date.


Waterworld and its associated gym will close in December.

A new pool and gym will be designed into the stadium. However it will be more conventional than Waterworld with only a small “fun” pool included.

Waterworld is only 20 years old and with that kind of life one wonders how durable such facilities now are? (The Barbican pool lasted for 40 years, Yearsley is over 100 years old)

Since the opening of the Sports Village on Hull Road, the Council has met national standards for the provision of swimming pools.  There is insufficient demand to pay for an additional swimming pool (which is why Labour quietly dropped their plans for a city centre pool).

Yearsley Pool

Under Labours plans, the opening of the new pool at Huntington will mean the end of the Council subsidy (around £250k pa) for the Yearsley pool. The unique 50 yard pool has fought off two previous attempts by Labour to close it although ironically in early 2011 – following a £1 million refit undertaken by the then LibDem controlled Council – Labour invented a bogus  “closure” rumour and campaigned against something that was not going to happen.  A new boiler was fitted at the pool meaning that the steam heat supply from the Nestle site could not attract disproportionately high charges.

Yearsley Pool

Yearsley Pool

Labour have now performed a 180 degree policy about turn.

The only chance for the pool would be for users to acquire the site and run it independently as a community asset. However it is highly unlikely that that increased admission charges could make up the financial deficit – more so as it would have to complete with three other modern pools in the City not to mention those at several independent sports clubs, hotels and schools.

Its only hope would be for Nestle to relent and allow a profitable gym to be added although this might involve them losing some car parking space.


The management of Energise – the sports facility on Cornlands Road – seems less threatened by the take over plans.

The centre is very popular and no doubt Greenwich Leisure will want to keep it that way.  However standardisation of charges and facilities, together with focusing some types of provision at just one site, may prove to be a challenge in the future.

No guarantees are being offered on admission charges although heavy competition from the private sector may help to keep them down.

What next?

The Stadium project is running over two years behind timetable. The publication of a report, for decision by the Councils Cabinet on 9th September, is belated but welcome.

Residents will be looking very carefully at the business plan for the new facility as the Council – which will remain the freeholder – does not want to risk having to step in to recover a failing project a few years down the line (as happened in Huddersfield a few years ago).

The changes to the retail component of the project do raise planning issues that may take some time to resolve, jeopardising the construction start date..

Whether a July 2016 opening date is realistic remains to be seen.

Waterworld sinking?

Energise Pool It looks like the delays on the Community Stadium project are now beginning to hit other parts of the City’s leisure services.

The Councils Labour Cabinet are set to hand an additional £450,000 to the contractors running Waterworld next year to keep it going.

The delay in letting a comprehensive contract – to run all building based leisure facilities in the City – means that Energise will be asked to find an additional £20,000 in income while it looks like the Yearsley Pool will be required to fund savings of £100,000!

Users will be eagerly awaiting news of how these economies will be achieved.

Increased admission charges have already been announced