Hopes for future St James Park expansion ended by Mike Ashley
The St James Park capacity could be extended up to around the 60,000 mark by expanding the Gallowgate End.
However, the possibility of any future increase in the number of Newcastle fans who could watch their team, depends on the availability of a patch of land opposite St James Park.
Whilst the land is owned by Nexus, Mike Ashley owns the lease on the strip of land in question.
Last year it became public that the Newcastle United owner was looking to sell the lease, with developers then looking to use the land for a potential combination of any or all of hotels, student accommodation, office space and retail opportunities.
The news of the planned lease sale and development was met with dismay by Newcastle fans, as whilst demand may not exceed supply at the moment, nobody knows what is around the corner.
With United averaging over fifty thousand last season to watch a relegation fight, if success ever returns to the club, just how many more supporters could be attracted?
The point being that any development would make it realistically impossible to ever expand the stadium, no matter how much Mike Ashley, or future owners, wanted it to happen.
However, last week there looked to be a reprieve.
The Newcastle United Supporters Trust (NUST) revealed that they had information that the developers Tolent had called a halt to the development.
The relief was shortlived though, as the Chronicle have reported this weekend that whilst Tolent are indeed no longer going ahead with their development on the land in question, somebody else is.
That person being…Mike Ashley.
The Chronicle spoke to John Wood, who is Chairman of Tolent Construction, with Wood telling them:
“Mike Ashley is going to do the development himself. We had agreed to buy the site from him and had sent the deposit, but then he got in touch to say he had decided to develop it for himself. It was disappointing and a bitter blow.
“Our plans were very advanced and we were ready to submit a planning application.
“I hope we are invited to tender for the construction work, but we are not a party to anything now. “It is disappointing but we are very busy elsewhere – we’re very much on the up.”
When the Chronicle approached the club they declined to comment but Mike Ashley has included property developing in his ever expanding empire in recent times.
Earlier this year, the Newcastle United owner was unveiled as the person behind a £900m development on prime land in Chelsea.
A very small part of me wonders (and hopes) if Mike Ashley realises just what a giant leap of faith it would potentially produce with supporters, if he did indeed use this patch of land to increase the capacity of St James Park.
Use it as a statement of intent that he really does want to make Newcastle United a real power in the coming years.
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