WHEN Aberdeen launched their Stand Free DVD back in 2002, as part of the clubs centenary celebrations, then Chief Executive Keith Wyness spoke then about the need for the Dons to move to a new ground, with Pittodrie unlikely to pass new UEFA criteria for hosting matches in European matches cited as one of the primary reasons.
Fifteen years later, Aberdeen are still at Pittodrie but with their most firm plan in place for a new home in Kingsford on the outskirts of the season. The impressive plans, shown in the video below, were revealed this week after numerous consultations with supporters and the facilities include a youth academy, modern day training facilities, a fanzone and supporters bar.
Councillors are due to vote in October to decide on whether or not the club can finally get the go ahead to build the new ground, with the club due to move by 2020.
As with most major development projects, the move has been met with strong opposition. The No to Kingsford group have been very vocal in their disapproval of the clubs plans, concerned at the impact of traffic to their area, and say the club should look elsewhere.
The problem for Aberdeen is that they are running out of options to build their new ground! Over the last fifteen years, proposed sites at Kingswells, near the beach and Cove have all fallen by the wayside for various reasons and the need for a new ground has intensified as Chairman Stewart Milne revealed that the club have been receiving special dispensation to play their Europa League matches in recent years.
Should UEFA end that agreement as Pittodrie continues to fall short of UEFA criteria, Aberdeen would need to play European ties away from the city, with Milne revealing that they’d need to go to Glasgow or Edinburgh to play their home ties, something that won’t go down well with the Red Army. It can be argued that this is a tactical ploy by Milne to put pressure on Councillors to finally give the club its new home.
Whatever the intentions in Milne’s statement, one thing that is certain that Aberdeen need to move to a new stadium complete with their own training facilities. As difficult as it will be to leave Pittodrie, the old stadium is way past its best and the facilities there are too outdated, with the exception of the Richard Donald stand, and there is no room to redevelop the ground given that it is smack-bang in the middle of a residential area and there is a graveyard behind the South Stand.
Those factors add to the fact it will be more costly to redevelop and modernise the clubs spiritual home. Even if revamping the famous old stadium was to be the only option, the chances of Aberdeen Council approving plans to buy the flats behind the Merkland Stand and the end of Pittodrie Road to redevelop the Main Stand is very slim, therefore long term Aberdeen will be playing European home games in the Central Belt.
A new ground will be refreshing for everyone concerned. For players, they will be proud to walk out into an impressive new stadium. For the board, they can attract more corporate hospitality guests willing to lease a hospitality box for the season and use their conference facilities for local businesses. For the most important guests, the supporters, they can enjoy the fanzone and bar at the ground before going into the ground to cheer on the Dons in a better ground. Even away fans will enjoy the prospect of coming to a new ground instead of Pittodrie, a ground often described as a dump, harsh maybe but also there is an element of truth in that statement.
The added incentive for this to happen is the training facilities. Aberdeen really need good facilities in order to help entice better players to the club and some players are put off coming to the club knowing that there isn’t a training facility to be shown around. Derek McInnes has spoken openly at the frustrations of having sessions cancelled due to double bookings with other events in the area, or being cut short because their time slot is ending. Having their own facility will make a world of difference, alongside a youth academy to entice the best young players in the area to come to the club and develop into proper first team players.
Quite simply, the club needs this move to happen, and not just for the club. A new ground will create more jobs and there are potential business opportunities due to the appeal of a new ground. In addition, the land of Pittodrie is a great business opportunity for housing development with housing companies, including Milne’s, interested in creating and selling their new homes. The fact that potential homes could be on the land of Pittodrie is attractive in itself for potential buyers, in a similar way to the old Highbury where Arsenal made a fortune in the sale of their old ground to housing and business firms (and no I’m not saying that Aberdeen will make anywhere near the same amount from the sale of Pittodrie).
On the park, things have been looking up for Aberdeen over the last four years since Derek McInnes arrived at the club. Consistent League performances, a League Cup, two other Finals and regular European football have seen more fans come to Pittodrie than the previous four years.
Now we need the new stadium, and it’s state of the art facilities, to finally get the go ahead so that the team, and city, can flourish going forward both on and off the pitch.