This update on stadium consultation has three parts: confirmation of the situation regarding the main stadium consultation; an update on consultation on the semi-permanent stands; and a quick ‘heads up’ about forthcoming consultation about the matchday experience.
Main stadium consultation
Members who attended the stadium meeting on Monday 3 June or have read May’s board meeting summary will know that, as stadium costs became finalised, it became increasingly clear that we couldn’t afford the stadium options that we had been hoping to consult on.
The original intention, as mentioned in Trust meetings over a number of years, had been to incorporate into the stadium design some specific options (over and above the stadium’s core elements) that we could consult on. Examples of the possible options included:
- providing some cover behind the semi-permanent south stand (the spaces behind the initial semi-permanent north, east and south stands, where semi-permanent toilets and concessions will be located, are currently uncovered)
- building some permanent toilets and concessions behind one of the semi-permanent stands, replacing semi-permanent ones
- completing construction of the West Stand (which currently has one block at its northern end ‘missing’)
- standing behind one goal (which would have involved not just repaying previously received grants but also expenditure on stronger foundations)
- building a concourse above the south stand, to connect with the West Stand.
We would then have crowdfunded to raise the additional money to finance the most popular option or options.
However, when the Dons Trust board was briefed by the proposed stadium contractor in mid-February this year, following further design and costing work, it became clear that the stadium’s main construction costs were considerably higher than previously estimated. Rather than crowdfunding being available to finance the options, it was now needed as an integral part of financing the core stadium build.
Right up until the presentation to the club in mid-May of Buckingham’s firm cost quotation, it was hoped that sufficient cost savings could be made to bring the options back onto the table. Indeed, between February and May a large volume of work was done by Buckingham Group and their architects KSS to reduce the costs, and we’d like to thank them for their efforts.
However, at the technical design stage the main costs again jumped significantly and it became clear that we couldn’t afford any of the options that were to have been consulted on.
Hopefully you will agree that the goal of Wimbledon returning to our spiritual home should be our main focus.
At the time we communicated the above to the 3 June meeting and in the meeting summary, we were still hoping that we might subsequently be able to consult on the configuration of the three semi-permanent stands.
Two options were being explored with Buckingham and their sub-contractors: one creating a bowl effect by curving around in the corners; the other with (in comparison) slightly shallower stands on two sides but a slightly deeper ‘detached’ south stand to create a distinctive ‘home end’. Both options needed to get us over a minimum capacity of 9,000 for phase 1.
Last week we received costs for the two proposals. The ‘home end’ option is significantly more expensive than the bowl option (primarily because of the need to install deeper foundations), while the bowl option is itself a bit more than we had been budgeting for.
Given the financial challenges facing the project as a whole, the stadium committee felt that it would be misleading to suggest that we could afford to incur a significantly higher cost at a time when financing the core stadium’s construction must be our main focus.
We therefore concluded that the ‘bowl’ option was the only viable one, and that consulting on the two semi-permanent design options would be a hollow exercise. Whilst it won’t quite give the same ‘home end’ feel as the other option, it will create an aesthetically pleasing bowl, of even height, wrapping around from each end of the permanent West Stand.
The precise configuration of the bowl option is still being finalised but, to give an indication of scale, it looks like the stands will be deeper than our current Paul Strank and John Green stands (which both have eight rows of seats).
In terms of ‘look and feel’, they will be closer to the semi-permanent stands that are behind the goals at AFC Bournemouth’s Dean Court, rather than the scaffold construction in place at Gillingham’s away end. They will all be pillar free, to offer unobstructed views of the pitch – and yes, they will each have a roof.
Matchday experience consultation
Trust board members Luke Mackenzie and Rob Crane recently met with club chief executive Joe Palmer to start planning the next phase of the matchday experience consultation. This will build on the initial consultation that was carried out at the end of last year.
It is likely that the next round of the consultation will focus on fairly generic aspects of the matchday experience, before later rounds drill down to aspects relating specifically to our new ground.
Our next steps will include contacting specific stakeholders – including the various volunteers and club staff who help deliver elements of our current matchday experience and our Disabled Supporters Association – to gather their own views about the matchday experience.