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Newcastle United owners believe they may have new innovative way to expand St James’ Park significantly

8 months ago
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St James’ Park has been an issue for the Newcastle United owners since day one.

The stadium hadn’t been sold out a single time since Mike Ashley forced Rafa Benitez out at the end of June 2019.

Once the new owners got the keys from Ashley on 7 October 2021 it was of course a game-changer.

Even though bullied by the media into giving Steve Bruce an ’emotional’ 1,000 game in football management, ten days after the takeover St James’ Park was full, all tickets sold very quickly.

Woeful tactics and interviews before and after this latest defeat, ensured Bruce would never manage his 1,001st game in football management, as a Newcastle United manager. However, that defeat to Spurs meant at least he could say that in his time as NUFC Head Coach he had at last seen a game sold out at St James’ Park with him in charge.

Anyway, every single available seat for Newcastle United fans at every single match at St James’ Park, from that Spurs defeat onwards, has been bought up.

A nice problem for the Newcastle United owners to have BUT also a very pressing AND awkward one.

Having St James’ Park in the city centre means there are constraints other clubs don’t have.

However, where there is a will, there is a way… hopefully.

Built between 1829 and 1834, Leazes Terrace is a listed building, meaning it isn’t as simple as buying it up and bulldozing it, then replacing it with a stand the same size as the Milburn.

Whilst at the Gallowgate End, the Hall and Shepherd ownership era saw the club buy land opposite the Gallowgate, with plans drawn up that showed it would be possible to increase the Gallowgate end by at least another 8,000 seats, taking St James’ Park up to 60,000+ capacity. Those initial plans were drawn up as part of a bigger potential development that would include a super casino and hotel etc. At the time (early 2000s) the Government had a policy of allowing so many huge Super Casino licenses to be given out and Newcastle Upon Tyne potentially to get one. The Hall and Shepherd NUFC were partnering with an American casino company but in the end the Government did a u-turn and dropped the Super Casino idea.

Whether or not the casino plan could potentially happen or not, the important thing was that NUFC had got hold of that land opposite the Gallowgate end, as it was felt essential to any possible future major capacity expansion of St James’ Park. Mike Ashley gained control of that land as part of the whole Newcastle United package, then in the later years of his ownership, he sold the land (from the club) to himself, then made a personal profit by then selling it to developers. Thankfully before student accommodation, offices, retail, hotels could be built on the land, due to various delays, the new Newcastle United owners have managed to buy that land back that is opposite the Gallowgate.

Now on Saturday there has been a major positive update, via The Times.

They say that the Newcastle United owners believe that they may have found a new innovative way to expand St James’ Park significantly.

With Newcastle United looking into the possibility of developing the East Stand as part of a plan to extend the capacity of St James’ Park.

The Times report that they have:

‘…learnt that the possibility of increasing the capacity of the East Stand is now under serious discussion. Newcastle built the stand in 1972 and it is now dwarfed by the more recent extensions of the Milburn Stand and the Leazes End because of restrictions involving the listed Georgian buildings behind it on Leazes Terrace.

Those buildings are grade II-listed and a limit was put on the size of the stand when it was built because of issues regarding light. However, advancements in engineering and architecture mean there is the possibility of a redesign that would use more glasswork and allow extra light to go through the stand, potentially leading to a significant capacity increase.’

The Times add that:

‘The club is looking at every possibility to extend the stadium, but that side of the ground has emerged as a better option instead of building at the Gallowgate End, which has a road behind it and a Metro station underneath. They are also keen to have fanzones around the stadium on match days and that appears the most logical area in which to do it.’

I have always thought that with modern advances in design /architecture, that 50 years later, there would be ways of increasing the capacity of the East Stand, especially with wealthy ambitious owners bringing in the necessary expertise (for example, the Reuben family have numerous major property / development projects on the go at any one time, with Newcastle city centre one of their key areas that they continue to operate in, as well as the wider region).

Whatever increases in capacity that could be achieved on the East Stand side, will still not see it come close to matching the Milburn, as there is still just limited space between that stand and Leazes Terrace. However, it would be still a massive boost if a feasibility study can show that thousands of extra seats can be added there.

As for the Gallowgate End…

Whilst the East Stand can hopefully be increased, I think it very unlikely that this would be instead of the Gallowgate.

Yes, it won’t be easy or cheap (neither will the East Stand be!) to develop but that (Gallowgate End) is surely the route, if Newcastle United are to seriously increase the St James’ Park capacity. Those Hall and Shepherd plans suggested at least 8,000 extra seats could be added at the Gallowgate End, surely then moving on 20 years or so and the expertise / finance these new owners can add, it would be many more than 8,000 that could be added at that end of the stadium. The Hall / Shepherd plans would have seen construction including building over the road behind the Gallowgate.

As for fanzones, I think this is a bit of a red herring. If the Gallowgate End was expanded, then I am sure that fanzones could be still accommodated as part of that. Whilst directly behind the Leazes End you have Leazes Park, which hosts countless events throughout the year, so no reason why fanzones couldn’t be hosted there before each match.

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