The announcement earlier in the year, that the opening of the City’s new Community Stadium would be delayed until the autumn, surprised few people.
York City Football Club first learned in 2004 that it could face a move away from Bootham Crescent.
The future of the Knights Rugby team subsequently become inextricably intertwined with the stadiums future.
All seemed well in 2010 when a source of funding (S106 planning contributions) for a new stadium was obtained. Planning permission for the Vanguard development was subsequently granted.
Further delays occurred as the Council agonised about procurement polices and management arrangements.
After many false dawns, the stadium should have been opening this month.
The announcement of another 6 month delay came as a disappointment.
Such information as leaked out about the cause of the delay was neither confirmed nor denied by a Council embroiled in a local election process. The “purdah” period prevented any statements that might have influenced the election result.
It is now over 5 weeks after the election concluded – with another “no overall majority” result. The Green Party, which opposed the stadium development together with some Tories – now shares power with the LibDems who themselves have a long commitment to the stadium.
There is no suggestion that political interference is behind the reason for the delayed announcements.
The “purdah” period is long over yet no explanation for the delay or, more importantly, a new opening date have been confirmed. The last official statement talked about an October opening date.
More realistically, the clubs may now be hoping that the stadium will be available for the lucrative Christmas /New Year fixture programme.
NB. York City’s National League North fixture list is due to be announced on 3rd July. The season will kick off on Saturday, August 3rd. The Football Club has already announced its season ticket prices.
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.
Déjà vu seeks stadium naming rights!
As we predicted earlier in the year, the new community stadium at Monks Cross will not be ready for occupation by the rugby and football Clubs until the middle of 2019.
As recently as April, the Council was still saying the work would be completed in late 2018.
Now it seems that the Council will – at its own risk- authorise building work to start before the final financial contracts have been signed. A report says that this will put £500,000 potentially at risk.
The report also says that a £2.7 million reduction in build costs will be achieved by a cross subsidy from commercial building works. They report that this means that build costs will be £34 million although any saving will be added to the “contingency” reserve, which is built into the budget.
So probably no saving for taxpayers.
The figures quoted in the report do not mention the millions already spent on administration. Other elements of the project bring the total cost to £42 million.
It fails to highlight the risks being taken on by the Council as the principal leaseholder of the southern commercial block.
The report also says the Council will get a lower price (£10.76m) when it sells land for the southern block and the lease on the east stand restaurants. This is £2.6 million less than forecast in March 2016.
The Council have announced that GLL will continue to run the Yearsley swimming pool at least until 2024. The Yearsley subsidy from taxpayers is £340,000 pa.
The Monks Cross plans still incorporate an additional new – largely inessential – swimming pool.
The Council says that it will not enter a deal with the existing York Libraries Trust for use of the new on-site library. They rather ominously say this is because the intend to re-tender for a new library service operator in 2018.
The proposed stadium name sponsor has walked away from the deal.
We hope that something finally comes out of the project. The present Council finishes its term of office in May 2019 only weeks before the latest stadium opening date. We hope that they will have something to celebrate.
However, they may reflect that, since funding for a stadium was first identified in 2009, ten years will have passed during which delay after delay has occurred.
The deal currently on the table will see the Councils leisure centres like Energise and Yearsley transferred over to the management of GLL, with all that may entail for staff and charges.
It is salutary to note that the Salford football club, who will ply their trade in the 6th tier of English football with York City this season, have managed to plan and build a tidy stadium in only 18 months. It is only slightly smaller than the déjà vu stadium in York but has been developed at only a fraction of the York cost.
Reports are circulating this morning that the building contractor for the York Community Stadium has withdrawn from the project.
A Council report on the £41 million Community Stadium project was published on Friday but makes no reference to ISG’s position. The report – prepared by Council officials – was criticised for not providing an update on the projects financial and business plan.
The much delayed facility – originally scheduled to open in 2012 – is currently subject to a Judicial Review. The review is expected to be completed in January.
The delays may be taking their toll on the two principal occupants of the Stadium. The Knights Rugby Club was taken over by a new owner last week while York City Football Club currently lie bottom of the National League and seemingly heading for relegation and matches against the likes of Harrogate Town.
A deal was concluded in 2010 which saw a budget of £16 million secured by means of a Section 106 agreement with the developer of a nearby shopping centre.
Now it looks like taxpayers will also face a £12 million bill.
While most of the blame for the failures rest with the then Labour run administration, which drew up the unnecessarily complex contract in 2012, it is a crying shame that the current coalition run Council failed to get a grip on the project when it took control of local affairs in May 2015.
The Council is now caught between a rock and a hard place.
Holes for rugby posts may be round………or possibly square
A couple of weeks ago the Knights signed an agreement with the York Council which not only confirmed that the Community Stadium would be their new home when it opens in 2017 but that, in the interim, they would have the use of Bootham Crescent.
The original planning permission for the new stadium had required that an alternative rugby ground be made available before the old Huntington Stadium was closed.
The move to Bootham Crescent seems to have run into two problems.
Claims have been made on social media that the owners of the stadium have not yet submitted an application for a new safety certificate. Apparently this is needed to allow rugby matches to be staged there (although why rugby should raise different spectator safety concerns from a football match will be a mystery to most casual observers).
This is separate from the licensing application for the ground which is being considered today and which we understand is not directly linked to the rugby clubs move.
Once a safety certificate has been sought there no reason why the Council should not issue it in a matter of a few days.
It appears also the four holes, into which rugby posts will be inserted on match days (they are grass covered at other times), have not yet been dug. Some sources say that this may take around two weeks to resolve. Contractor Bernard Cribbins is apparently expected on site shortly.
The Rugby season finishes at the end of September when the play offs are scheduled to take place. Some Knights fans – with the team playing well and currently in second place in their division – are keen to ensure that the larger crowds expected for the run in can be accommodated.
Use of Bootham Crescent seems to be the only local option available to satisfy this reasonable wish.
The Council signed off in January as “complete” the planning condition for the new Community Stadium (see right) which required an alternative venue to be made available for rugby fixtures.
NB An update report on progress with the Community Stadium is due to be considered by the Council’s Executive on 27th August
Such a group was in place until 2011, after which the newly elected Labour Council decided to take project decisions behind closed doors.
The result was a two year delay in moving things forward with the complication of adding Citywide swimming and indoor sport management responsibilities into the contract.
One consequence was the closure of Waterworld and an emerging threat to the future of the Yearsley swimming pool.
The war between the Councils Labour Leadership and the Knights Rugby Club continues with both sides now engaged in a “mentoring” process.
A “call in” of the planning application by the Highways Agency is adding to the delays with even the most optimistic supporter now doubting whether the stadium could open as promised in July 2016.
The establishment of the all party group is a welcome step forward and should help to sustain the project over the “all out” Council elections, due on May 7th. The make up of the monitoring group would be:
- 1 x Labour
- 1 x Conservative Group (Councillor Steward)
- 1 x Liberal Democrat Group (Councillor Ayre)
- 1 x Green Group (Councillor Taylor)
- 1 x Labour Independent
- 1 x Independent
- 1 place for a Ward Councillor (Councillor Orrell – Huntington & New Earswick)
The Councils Cabinet is to consider an update on the much delayed Community Stadium at its meeting on 7th January.
The Council is seeking an operator who will design, build, operate and maintain the stadium. They will also manage and maintain the Councils other Leisure facilities such as the successful Energise sports centre on Cornlands Road.
Given the Council somewhat varied track record on Leisure centre management (the Barbican was costing taxpayers £800,000 a year until it was privatised), the Council is probably correct to seek a professional organisation to manage the Stadium.
Discussions with 2 preferred bidders are expected to continue until March. Their plans will be kept secret until later in the year.
The Council says that “All submissions were able to meet the basic minimum criteria set of 6,000 capacity all-seat stadium, community hub within the financial parameters of the project”
However designing the stadium so that it can be expanded in capacity later is described as having “major cost implications” and it seems that the initial capacity may be increased to over 6000 with “some terraced standing space”.
That is likely to please many football supporters but it would be at the expense of later expansion capability.
It seem likely now that a stadium with a capacity of 7000 will be provided but with the capability of expansion to 10,000 only if Championship (or Super League) promotion is achieved.
The report confirms that the costs of running the stadium will be covered “through a mix of the rentals from the sports clubs, the community hub tenants and other commercial income streams brought forward by each bidder. This will include full maintenance and lifecycle costs as part of a 13 year operational contract”.
The Council are now talking about opening the stadium in spring 2016.
Planning & Project Agreement Live
Work starts on site
February / March 2016
The £2 million athletics facility at Heslington West is expected to be opened in September 2014. A copy of the design specification for the athletics facility can be viewed here.
The Cabinet report includes a list of the risk factors that must be addressed. Not least amongst these is the need to meet the requirements of the Football Foundation who loaned York City £2 million in 2005.