How St James Park could be transformed by Bin Zayed Group but time is running out
Will the Bin Zayed Group take over Newcastle United?
That is the question of everybody’s lips, since claims first emerged on Sunday (26 May) night.
The issue of course is also time sensitive, for any number of reasons.
The most obvious ones where the clock is ticking loudest for most fans, are the issues surrounding Rafa Benitez and the summer transfer window.
As it stands, it appears until there is a definitive conclusion to the ownership issue, we are unlikely to see the manager sign a new long-term contract and until Rafa’s situation is clarified, it looks pretty unrealistic to expect any major signings.
However, there is a third issue that I would argue is just as pressing. Maybe in some ways, even more so.
It is only three weeks ago since we brought you an update on the land opposite the Gallowgate End (see below).
It was land bought by Newcastle United back when John Hall and Freddy Shepherd were running the show. The idea being that sometime in the future, St James Park could be expanded at the Gallowgate End as part of a large scale development. The plans they had drawn up back then, showed St James Park could be expanded to at least a 60,000 capacity, with that expansion being part of a wider development that would incorporate a massive casino, hotel and so on.
When Mike Ashley bought Newcastle United, that land opposite the Gallowgate End came as part of the deal. However, Mike Ashley later sold the land to himself and then eventually sold it on to developers for a personal profit.
The plans to build a combination of hotels, student accommodation, office space and retail have been around for some time now, with Newcastle fans campaigning against the development as it would mean realistically there would be pretty much zero chance of St James Park being expanded, even if the club ever got a new owner…
Then after this public consultation exercise (see below) in early May, we also then got to see some mock-up images of how this would then affect the city skyline, particularly in relation to St James Park. Not a pretty sight!
Moving back to the present day and if the Bin Zayed Group buying out Mike Ashley is potentially going to happen, an imminent disaster surely becomes a golden opportunity.
Twenty years ago only Manchester United had a bigger capacity than Newcastle United, in these last two decades though: Liverpool, Spurs, Manchester City, West Ham and Arsenal have all expanded or moved to bigger capacities, leaving Newcastle back in seventh.
Both Chelsea and Everton have been looking at new stadiums/capacities which could overtake Newcastle’s, Wolves recently announced plans to increase to 50,000 whilst many other clubs, from Bournemouth to Leicester, are also looking to expand capacity.
It really is a no-brainer for any ambitious new owner of Newcastle United to look for any possible ways to increase St James Park’s capacity.
This works on a number of levels, not just in terms of enabling more fans to get into matches and give support to the team, it very much works on a business level. Which is why clubs such as Manchester City were so keen to expand the Etihad despite having massive money available to them.
Ground development doesn’t come under Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules, so doesn’t have to affect spending on transfer fees and wages. Owners can privately fund an increased capacity and the benefits to them for doing this are: getting more fans into St James Park would obviously produce higher matchday revenues going forward, allowing them to grow the business/brand, it also means that if/when they come to sell the club in the future, they would get that money back and more on their extra investment.
With the FFP rules, increasing revenues in this way would mean ambitious owners would then be able to spend significantly more on both transfer fees and player wages.
The Bin Zayed Group are involved in all kinds of projects, including/especially construction so every chance their expertise could enable even more innovative ways to help maximise the St James Park capacity.
Obviously a deal would need to be done to either compensate or work with the current developers but no reason why an alternative development can’t be the outcome, which includes an expanded St James Park.
Certainly, if Newcastle City Council are waving through this current development as it is stands, it would surely be unthinkable to believe thy would then for some reason block a different approach that would see a bigger stadium capacity.
The clock is ticking though and we look for an early conclusion to this reported buyout. If it does happen and we see investment in both the playing squad and the infrastructure, particularly plans for a bigger St James Park capacity, the change in mood/belief of Newcastle fans would be something to behold.
The Mag – 10 May 2019:
When you are walking up from the city centre to St James Park, picture in your head how it looks.
As people often describe it, the ‘cathedral on the hill’ looks the business.
We might not win trophies but there are many great things about our football club and the way that St James Park dominate the skyline is just one of them.
However, this will very soon be simply memories and photos, unless plans to butcher one of the city centre’s greatest assets are stopped.
On Thursday, there was a ‘drop-in public consultation event’, allowing people to go along and comment on the proposals for the development on land opposite the Gallowgate End.
This is land that was bought by NUFC when John Hall and Freddy Shepherd were running the show, earmarked to one day help St James Park increase capacity to 60,000+.
Mike Ashley took control of the land as part of the package when buying Newcastle United in 2007, then later bought it from the club into his private control, before selling it on to developers at a profit of millions of pounds (for himself).
If the development goes ahead for offices. apartments, hotels etc goes ahead, it ends any realistic hope of expanding St James Park now and in the future. quite ridiculous for a club that can attract average gates of over 51,000 in the Championship.
However, as well as this, Thursday’s public consultation event has shown just how horrific the whole development will look if allowed to happen.
The mock-up images (see below) at yesterday’s event have now shown that there is another horrific side to this scheme.
Just look at how massive these buildings are going to be and the impact they will have on St James Park and the city’s skyline overall.
The trouble with so many things such as this, is that the reality only hits home for people when it is too late.
Only when fans/general public see the end product, does it properly register what has been allowed to happen.
The Newcastle United Supporters Trust are looking to coordinate opposition/influence on this development and you can visit their Twitter account HERE and website HERE, for information and how you can help.
The Mag – Thursday 9 May 2019:
A reminder on the development of land opposite the Gallowgate End that would prevent St James Park ever being expanded in the future, if it goes ahead.
It is a long running saga dating back to when John Hall and Freddy Shepherd were running Newcastle United.
Buying land opposite St James Park and having plans drawn up, which showed it would be possible to expand the Gallowgate End, leading to an increased capacity of at least 60,000.
Whilst there was no immediate plan put into action, fans were reassured by the thought that in the future, it would be possible to accommodate more fans.
However, the takeover by Mike Ashley changed all that.
He paid the club to transfer the land opposite St James Park into his own personal control away from Newcastle United and then later sold at a profit to developers.
Despite having had an average crowd of over 51,000 in the Championship, the owner happy to end any hopes of ever expanding St James Park in the future, in return for a few extra quid in his own pocket.
Later today (Thursday 9 May: 4pm – 7pm) there is a ‘drop-in public consultation event’, allowing people to go along and comment on the proposals.
As you can see below, the development is proposed in four blocks (the image showing where they would be in relation to St James Park on the right), with office space, hotel rooms and rented apartments intended to be included.
Not exactly things Newcastle Upon Tyne is desperately in need of…at the expense of the future expansion of St James Park.
The drop-in event takes place at the Sandman Signature Hotel today (9 May), next to St James Park, 4pm-7pm.
‘Lambert Smith Hampton
St James’ Car Park, Gallowgate
Proposals for a Mixed Use Redevelopment Scheme
You are invited to attend a drop-in public consultation event to view and comment on emerging proposals for a mixed-use redevelopment scheme on land at St James’ Car Park, Gallowgate.
The consultation event will take place at Sandman Signature Hotel, Gallowgate, Newcastle-upon-Tyne on Thursday 9th May between 4pm and 7pm.
Members of the design team will be on hand to answer any questions you may have.
In August 2017 Marrico Asset Management LLP secured planning permission for a mixed use development scheme at St James’ Car Park, Gallowgate (Application Ref: 2015/1778/01/DET).
The approved scheme comprised of four blocks providing a mix of student accommodation, office space,
residential accommodation and commercial floorspace.
What is being proposed?
Marrico Asset Management LLP and Helios Investment Partners are now proposing a revised mixeduse development at St James’ Car Park, similar to the approved scheme, but including changes to the overall mix of uses and height of some of the blocks.
The detailed design approach is still the subject of pre-application discussions with representatives from the City Council, other statutory consultees and stakeholders.
The mix of uses proposed has, however, been broadly established having regard to the local context, site constraints and market
conditions and includes:
• Building A – Residential block providing 202 privately rented apartments;
• Building B – Office block comprising 14,400sqm of floorspace;
• Building C – Either an office block comprising 6,500sqm of floorspace or a 180 bed hotel; and
• Building D – Either a hotel comprising 170 bedrooms or a residential block comprising 113 privately rented apartments.
In addition to the above, areas of landscaping a high quality public realm will be provided within the site along with associated access and servicing arrangements for all of the proposed uses.
If you would like to view and comment on the proposals, you are welcome to drop by the Sandman Hotel on 9th May (4pm -7pm).
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