When I wrote in the first article (click here for Part 1) my worries as a supporter of the Salford City Reds was based on the wall of silence I encountered when asking about the stadium's design. I was simply confused, as the images and concepts announced recently were so different than the previous images and plans shown by the club at various meetings.
I thought it would be a simple question to answer - `Yes the stadium design has changed' or `No it hasn't'. I realise there is a recession on and the costs need to be reduced but I never imagined that the stadium would have to be redesigned so dramatically, especially when we are told it can be increased to a 20,000 capacity. Neither did I imagine that within a couple of hours of my thoughts being posted online, Salford City Council would be in contact with the editor of this site.
Having been forwarded their email, and armed with new found righteous indignation, I decided to see what the plans actually are rather than waiting in my armchair to see what Sky Sports, the written media or Salford City Council can tell me. To say that I am shocked at what I found is an understatement and it has filled me with even more questions.
I have, like a lot of fans, seen the official statements on the Council (click here) and North West Regional Development Agency (click here) websites released in March and May by Salford City Council's Marketing department, stating the stadium will cost £26 million with initial capacity of 15,000...
"Salford City Council has formed a joint venture company with Peel to deliver the 15,000 capacity stadium - which will be home to the Reds - by December 2011."
You can therefore imagine the surprise when I saw the 15,000 capacity stadium that was announced on the 10th March 2010, has in the planning application submitted to Salford Council on 8th June 2010 become initially a 12,000 capacity stadium. Yes 12,000.
The build, if full capacity is met, will be in 3 phases. The 1st building phase is going to be a 12,000 capacity stadium that can rise to 15,000 (phase 2) and then 20,000 (phase 3). The planning statement submitted to the council is quite clear "This proposals [a quote, not my poor English] are based on a stadium with an initial capacity of 12,000 with an option to extend to 15,000 and 20,000 at a later date when demand exists."
Surely in your plans you don't write an initial capacity and then build a stadium to a different capacity. I thought that the idea of all these plans was to fulfil the wishes of the clients? We the citizens of Salford are left with the ambiguous term "an option to extend ….when demand exists".
I call on Salford City Council to publicly state what is going on and what the people of Salford are going to get when the stadium opens in 2011. For £26 million are we going to get a 12,000 or 15,000 capacity stadium?
The money borrowed and interest will be paid back initially by the tax payer and we have a right to know - even if the stadium pays for itself through events and retail it will not be done overnight. It may be an easy question to answer that simply Phase 1 and 2 will be done at the same time. Why then was the plan not for this in the first place? Did the Council not know they were going to get a planning statement stating a reduced initial capacity? Is this the reason why I met silence when I first enquired? Is this why Sky tv were ignored when they tried to find out about the stadium's progress? Why our local papers seem to have not printed a stadium story for a long time? If these questions are not answered there will be no getting away from them in August when planning permission has to be sought after public consultations.
A Salford Council spokesperson stated that "A detailed planning application for the whole development site will be submitted to Salford's planning panel in August. It is a requirement that the government office should see the planning application before the city council finally grants planning permission."
I am more confused than ever - I thought 15,000, although practical was a bit small to stage test matches and cup semi finals, especially when St Helens new ground will be 18,000 (see photo)
12,000, whilst big enough for Salford City Reds I don't think is big enough for multi-use which is needed to recover the cost of building and running. Sale Sharks' Chief Executive Mick Hogan was quoted in June talking about aiming for average attendances of 12,000 in three seasons. Well I doubt they will be looking at a 12,000 capacity stadium.
As members of the public, we can view the plans online from Salford Councils website (I wish I known that before going to the town hall). Click on application search (here) and type in 58995 as the reference number and then you can look at all the current plans in the documents section.
The following link from that section is well worth a look as it shows the ground visualisations. Page 3 shows the ground at the end of phase one, page 11 at the end of stage 3. Unfortunately there are no images on this particular link to the end of stage 2 which is when the stadium will have a 15,000 capacity. The images highlighted (and in the picture) show that the changes from 12,000 to 20,000 involve additional tiers on three stands and the moving of the floodlights which would not seem to this layman to be a straight forward or easy job after the stadium has opened. It seems to me that the images shown in the press previously were of the 20,000 capacity version of the stadium.
Finally, I feel really sorry for the Salford City Reds staff who have battled hard for this new stadium, who take all the flak from the fans, and this week the media, because it's not their fault. It is quite clear when you look at the plans that this is a Peel and Salford City Council venture, the Reds are the tenants as it is a community stadium. They may be getting good rates but they don't own it and seem to have little if any input.
Salford City Reds will have to move into the stadium whether its 12,000 or 20,000, iconic or not. They do not own the Willows any more and beggars can't be choosers. The family silver was sold for a promise of Eldorado. This week the land of gold seems to be slightly tainted and the club has been in made to look foolish in the national media through no fault of its own.
Maybe I'm getting my "knickers in a twist", there may be nothing to worry about. I hope not, but I can't quite help feeling like a mushroom - you know in the dark and fed …
Words by Jack Rogers
Stop Press: Update 4th August 2010
It is official - the new Salford City Reds Stadium, when planning permission is sought this month, will only have a capacity of 12,000 - as revealed previously by the Salford Star - and not 15,000.
Today a Salford Council spokesperson finally confirmed that the permission currently being sought is for a 12,000 capacity stadium.
“The projected delivery date for the stadium is late 2011, to be ready for the 2012 Rugby Football League season which starts in February 2012. A previous planning application for a stadium on this site has already had planning permission for a maximum capacity of 20,000 . The current application is for a 12,000 stadium, associated sports pitches and car-parking.”
After the Star's first article on the ground's design (click here) we were contacted and given a statement referring to a “15,000 capacity community stadium”. As shown in the next article (see above) the plans were received by the council on the 8th June 2010. Yet the Council's marketing department did not know or amend their press releases and only on 4th August is the 12,000 capacity confirmed. It does make one wonder at the communication within our local government.
Recently the Salford Star was accused by Sue Lightup, Salford Council's Strategic Director for Community Health and Social Care, of having “constant references about the Council that inferred lack of integrity, truth and accountability." (Salford Star V Salford Council) Is it any wonder why we question our civil servants?