When will LNER Community Stadium be completed?

Building work is still continuing at the site of the LNER Community Stadium at Monks Cross. It seems that it will be some time before all the buildings can be brought into use.

Community Stadium works till not completed

The main area of concern remains the stadium itself.  The authorities failed to stage the required test events before the lockdown led to a suspension of most work.

The test events – of varying capacities – are a prerequisite for the issue of a safety  certificate. Without a certificate the stadium can’t be commissioned.

It is something of a paradox that – because of social distancing regulations – initially only a proportion of the capacity would be used.  The (National League) football season is due to start at the beginning of October. That is only seven weeks away. Players will recommence training shortly and it is customary to stage friendly matches in the immediate run up to start of a season.

There is little clarify from the government at this stage about how social distancing might limit crowd numbers.

Some sports commentators have said that as few as 1 in 5 seats might be occupied.

LNER Community Stadium

Therein may be the rub for York City.

Social distancing is potentially much easier in an all seater stadium like the one at Monk Cross. If 20% of its 8512 seats were occupied then this would be enough to accommodate all season ticket holders plus a few more.

York City’s average attendance, during the last fully completed season (2018/19), was 2443.

 In the same year the York Knights Rugby Team attracted 2125.

If one in three seats could be occupied (essentially respecting a 1 metre social distancing guideline) the all regular supporters could be accommodated.

Some other teams in the National League North have announced plans to ground share at stadiums with a larger capacity to accommodate all who wish to attend.

Hopefully the Council and its partners have plans in place to quickly finish off the remaining building work and find a way to open the stadium albeit possibly with a reduced capacity.

Bootham Crescent redevelopment set for approval

Planning application to be determined on 13th August

Council official are recommending that planning permission be granted to build 93 houses on the site of York City Football Clubs existing stadium. The Club is expected to move to a new stadium at Monks Cross later this year.

Proposed housing layout

The development, which has been in the pipeline for over a decade, will comprise 12 one bed, 33 two bed, 37 three bed and 11 four bed properties. Of these 18 (20%) will be classed as “affordable”.

The plans incorporate a heritage proposal agreed with Historic England which acknowledges the significance of the football ground over the last 90 years.

It consequently incorporates the following elements that will give distinctive character to the development and evidence the site’s past use –

  • A memorial garden and a retained section of the west stand. The retained section of terrace along with evidence of the location of the centre circle within the landscaping will allow for orientation and evidence of the previous layout of the site.
  • The ‘proposed flag location’ annotated on the site plan relates to the flag present at the football ground (in a similar location). Historically the flag was lowered gradually towards the end of the game.
  • The west brick boundary wall, which predates use of the site by the football club will be retained (it will be lowered removing the blockwork).

The report goes on to say,

The retained terrace and tunnel will provide a lasting legacy of the stadium and create a focal point for memory and orientation. The location of the retained terrace and tunnel matches the desired position on the halfway line at the midpoint of the Popular Stand and in front of the POS. The precise length of the section will be determined by conservation, engineering and health and safety considerations but is not expected to exceed 6m.

The preferred location for the memorial garden is around the base of this
structure to provide discreet location for remembrance. The side walls of the terrace could be used to support memorial plaques etc, while caskets and ashes could be buried at the base of the walls. Some existing metal fencing and gates in the Popular Stand could be appropriated to secure the perimeter at the top of the terrace and ends of the tunnel. Similarly, the
wooden picket fence in front of the Popular Stand should be reclaimed to border the memorial garden.

Centre circle

The idea of recreating the centre circle in the middle of the POS is applauded, it would be in alignment with the retained section of terrace and provide a further place for orientation.

Flagpole

The flagpole was originally located between the south-east corner of the pitch and the stadium entrance. It is suggested that the new flagpole is erected as close as possible to this original location, and that it flies a replica of the club flag as a permanent and symbolic reminder of fans’ allegiance to Bootham Crescent. Its proposed location does not exactly match the original position, but it is as near as possible in the proposed layout. Ideally, like the centre circle, it should be slightly further south and east, closer to the new entrance.

Any development will not take place until both the football and Rugby Clubs have moved to the – much delayed – new stadium. Commissioning work there is still apparently held up by the after affects of the pandemic. Social distancing regulations currently make it impossible to stage large scale trial events there, an essential prerequisite for stadium certification.

Details of the planning committee report can be found by clicking here

Turning into a pantomime?

It is understandable that residents want to know when the £42 million community stadium complex will be fully open for business.
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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 (!)

Details of York Council football club loan published

A response to a Freedom of Information request has finally forced the Council to reveal the terms of its £350,000 loan to York City FC agreed in 2014. 

The loan was secured by a legal charge on the Bootham Crescent ground.

The loan involved annual repayments of £35,000.  

The balance of the loan is payable immediately if the Club sell Bootham Crescent. It is understood that a house builder still has an option to purchase the site when the football and rugby clubs move to the new LNER stadium in 2020.

In addition the Football Club has agreed to pay £2 million towards the cost of building the new stadium.

There is a legal charge on the club’s assets to cover this liability.

The Council continue to refuse to publish the valuations that they have undertaken on Bootham Crescent.

They also refuse to say how much rent they expect to receive from the football club at Monks Cross (the stadium part of the development is expected to cost around £16 million of the total £47 million cost of the whole development).

The council has confirmed that, once all processes have been complete, it intends to release the lease agreement with York City into the public domain.

Liberal Democrat Councillors launch petition to reduce proposed Community Stadium parking charges

Liberal Democrat Councillors have launched a petition calling on the Council to reverse the proposed increase to parking charges at the York Community Stadium.

The new £10 charge was agreed by Tory Executive member Peter Dew at a meeting which took place 3 weeks ago.

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Under current proposals, fans travelling to park at the Park & Ride facilities to reach the Stadium may be charged £10 to park, increasing from the current £5 price.

This will be in addition to some spaces reserved for the sports clubs, continuing Park & Ride services and free parking at the Vangarde Shopping Centre, which will be limited to two hours on all match days.

If approved, local councillors are concerned that fans travelling to the Community Stadium will seek alternative or cheaper parking in nearby Huntington, increasing local traffic in the community and on-street parking on matchdays.

Local Liberal Democrat Councillors for Huntington and New Earswick have voiced their concerns at the proposals and have now launched a petition calling for a reduction to the proposed fare increase.
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York Knights Rugby say they will open the new Community Stadium with a fixture on 20th July

The Knights official home opener in the brand new Community Stadium in Huntington is set to take place on 20th July 2019.

They will welcome close rivals Bradford Bulls.

It will be a Saturday evening kick off at 6:00 pm

There is still a lot of work to be done at the stadium and sometimes commissioning takes longer than expected (ask any Spurs fan)

York City will no doubt be hoping to stage a landmark fixture in early July against a “big name” opponent.

National League football fixtures don’t commence until August.