Is the time right (or wrong) to look into a new Vale ground?

Is the time right (or wrong) to look into a new Vale ground?

OVF editor Rob Fielding has been an advocate of a new ground for some time – but the sticking point would be funding the move.

Rob Fielding writes…

When I published my recent article criticising the plans and cost of Vale’s Lorne Street stand (read it here), I didn’t expect the comments that were posted on the OVF forum.

In particular, I was surprised to read how many fans share my views (which I thought controversial) that it may be time for Vale to explore the possibility of a new ground.

I have always felt that Vale Park, beloved as it is, is not a great place for a football ground…

I have always felt that Vale Park, beloved as it is, is not a great place for a football ground. The area is riddled with mineshafts, access to public transport is pitiful while car parking is often a problem. It’s hardly an enticing prospect for the lucrative corporate market either. By having the stadium in such a location, you are hindering getting people through the turnstiles, not helping them. Not only that, but the half-built Lorne St stand and the now 60 year-old Railway stand are going to need expensive work on them soon.

Vale moving grounds is not without precedent. After all, Vale Park has only been our home since 1950. If a new ground was sought close to Burslem but perhaps with better access (a spot near the A500 in Wolstanton has been mentioned) then would it benefit the club? I think it’s worth exploring.

Take a look at Scunthorpe United as an example. They are going ahead with an impressive new stadium-build complete with mini Wembley-style arch. It will house 12,000 fans but can be extended to an 18,000 capacity.

scunthorpe-stadium

An architect’s impression of the new Scunthorpe stadium.

Aside from the number of seats, the new stadium offers lots of benefits to the Irons. They plan to have up to 10 secondary football fields beside it. They will provide both the playing conditions for reserve/youth teams and United’s training academy. It will have a Hotel complex.  Altogether the site will be around five times the size of existing Glanford Park’s surface, including parking sites. It’s being built just 900 metres from the existing ground and the cost, well, the cost is somewhat surprising…

The total cost of the build will be £18m but thanks to external funding programs, such as the EU and football funds, the club will pay just half that amount, £9m, to the builders.

I realise that £9m is a lot to shell out and that it may be a stalling point. However, there are many benefits of a new ground – increased attandances, better commercial opportunities (such as a lucrative hotel which is part of the Scunthorpe plans) and fewer repair costs being just a few of them.

Clearly, the problem for the Valiants is where they raise the £9m from? 

Clearly, the problem for the Valiants is where they raise the £9m from? Most other clubs fund moves from selling their existing stadium land but times have changed recently. Bristol Rovers are facing problems because their move relied on Sainsburys buying their old Memorial Stadium land. But following profit losses, Sainsburys have cancelled all new store developments and are currently disputing the Memorial purchase in the courts.

Even allowing for a change in the financial climate, the prospect of a lucrative Vale Park sale look bleak. Which supermarket or housing developer would pay for land that is prone to water logging and which has multiple mine shafts on it?

So, while a new stadium may be a good move in theory, it is practically very difficult to see how Vale could fund such a move. It could be that the Valiants are stuck at Vale Park for the time being unless someone has any suggestions.

Is there anyone out there who knows how to raise £9m?