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Exeter City reveal ambitious plans for redevelopment

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: June 17, 2011

  • An aerial view of St James’ Park with its major redevelopment of the Old Grandstand and St James’ Road end

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Exeter City has unveiled radical plans to redevelop St James' Park.

Hundreds of student flats could be built next to the stadium site to finance the construction of two new stands as part of a multi-million pound scheme.

The football club has today launched a public consultation with supporters and residents ahead of any planning application being submitted.

Artists' impressions showing how the ground could look have gone on show in an exhibition at the Grecian Centre at St James' Park.

It follows months of behind-the-scenes planning driven by the increasingly urgent need to replace the dilapidated Old Grandstand, also known as the Stagecoach family stand, before it can no longer meet safety standards.

The redevelopment proposals, which have been drawn up by architects Kensington Taylor, are intended to give City the facilities needed to become an established club in the second tier of English football.

Under the draft plans, the old grandstand – built in 1926 – would be demolished and replaced with a completely new stand, incorporating changing rooms, corporate boxes and administration offices.

Terracing at the away end would make way for a new stand, with a retail unit on the corner of St James' Road and Well Street forming part of the structure.

The landmark former St James' School building – currently home to club offices, hospitality suites and the Centre Spot bar – would be demolished.

A new building in its place would include potentially lucrative conference facilities and a new base for Devon Youth Service's Fountain Centre, alongside a 214-bedroom student accommodation block.

Another block of student accommodation, consisting of 280 bedrooms, would be built on the car park behind the Big Bank in partnership with a private developer.

Consultants have estimated that the cost of enhancing the football stadium at around £7 million. To fund this, around £25 million of commercial development would have to take place.

Club chairman Edward Chorlton said the number of student flats proposed was carefully calculated to make the scheme financially viable.

"The club does not borrow money and has no debt. It is looking therefore at enabling development to pay for the stadium improvements," he said.

"The scheme doesn't add up financially if you reduce the number of flats."

In 2007, a report by consultants Drivers Jonas concluded that staying at St James' Park and upgrading the stadium was preferable to ground-sharing with the Exeter Chiefs or relocating to a new site.

Under the plans being considered, the capacity of the ground would rise from around 8,850 to 10,500 if the away end becomes an all-seater stand.

The replacement away end would have a capacity of 1,650 seated or 2,700 standing spectators, compared with the current limit of 1,053.

The new grandstand could accommodate 2,800 fans – up from the 1,690 capacity of the existing Stagecoach stand.

"The old grandstand – also known as the family stand or the Stagecoach stand – is past its sell-by date," said Mr Chorlton.

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  • Kirton1  |  July 05 2012, 3:28PM

    The club should be allowed to move to Flowerpot fields, there is more than enough room there for a stadium which could increase further if city rise up the leagues, its close to the train station, not too far from the city centre, near bus routes, and alot of fans could walk to this location.

  • carnivalist  |  June 19 2011, 8:43PM

    A new stadium would be excellent in theory - although there are cons to an out of town site. It depends on how "out of town" trhe site is. I recall there was an idea to build where the Makro in Marsh Barton is now, which would have been sensble. However there is an obvious problem there, insofar as we don't actually own the ground anymore. As has been pointed out, there would be a shortfall in funding and I can't see the Council helping. Chesterfield party financed the shortfall from the sale of Saltergate partly by way of their sugardaddy Dave Allen convincing the Trust to sell most of its shares. That is the last thing I ever want to see at Exeter City. The Trust isn't perfect - nothing is - but the principle of fan-ownership is something we should never take for granted. I hope we are never stupid enough to give way to irrational voiceswith irrationally raised expectations, clamouring for a sugardaddy to "take us further", or who accuse the Trust of "lacking ambition". I want success as much as anyone, but look what happened down the A38 when their reach exceeded their grasp and Stapleton and co uttered the words that have proved so dangerous for so many clubs - "we need "investment" (i.e selling to richer men) to take the club further" There's more to a football club than league position.

  • Jamespotters  |  June 17 2011, 2:00PM

    Well in answer to Saint.James comment, it would be up to the club and local planners to find a suitable site, and if they can locate an out of town site,then it would result it in being a lot less valuabe than the prime site of St James park (subject to the whole of St James park obtaining planning consent for housing/redevelopment) Although, not an ideal site, how about Whipton playing fields ? http://tinyurl.com/6697zsk

  • SaintJames  |  June 17 2011, 1:07PM

    Great idea James about the out of town site however fundamental flaws are that (a) there are no out of town sites to go to (this was identified in a report over 3 years ago), (b) even if there were an out of town site it would need additional money over and above any sale of St. James Park to cover all the costs!

  • Jamespotters  |  June 17 2011, 11:05AM

    It is great that ECFC are planning for a brighter future, and i believe that they should be encouraged both financially and professionally by the local authorities. The new plans announced will increase capacity by less than 2000, and there will still be no land for car parks. It would seem more sense to sell off the whole St James site for redevelopment, and with the huge funds raised from the sale, an out of town site could be purchased or leased from the council. The new site could be an oppurtunity for ECFC to develop a state of the art stadium, together with restaurants, bars, cafes, car parks and facilites for exhibitions, weddings, festivals and conference facilities. All of which, is properly managed, will generate a much needed additional income for the football club. Good luck for a brighter future

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  • SaintJames  |  June 17 2011, 7:13AM

    What a fantastic project. This will truly make St. Jmaes Park a stadium for the Championship not the conference. Good news for housing in the city as well as the flats will mean that family accomodation in houses around the ground can now revert back to family use.