Bristol City Fans hail new stadium
Bristol City supporters have given a resounding thumbs-up to the proposed designs for the club's new 30,000 all-seater stadium at Ashton Vale.
Robins fans say they are impressed with plans for the new ground, which club chairman Steve Lansdown says could be ready for the 2012/13 season.
Mr Lansdown yesterday revealed that the new ground would take the name of a corporate sponsor.
He said the naming rights, along with the sale of Ashton Gate for development, would raise funds to help finance the new stadium.
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It is believed as much as £13 million could be earned from the sale of the eight-a-half acre Ashton Gate site in current market conditions, while a corporate sponsor would also add millions to the club's coffers.
Mr Lansdown predicts the economic downturn will be over when work on the new stadium is pencilled in to start in early 2010, although the club first needs the green light from Bristol City Council and North Somerset Council.
An artist's impression of the new stadium to replace Ashton Gate, City's home of 100 years, was unveiled to shareholders and fans at the club's annual meeting on Thursday.
Yesterday lunchtime, supporters at pubs in Ashton backed the stadium design, while the proposals were also warmly received by both the supporters' club and supporters' trust.
The proposed stadium, which has four individual stands rather than a bowl and can be expanded to hold 42,000, would be finished by January 2012, then road tested before opening to fans for the 2012/13 season.
Miles Hendy, a board member on the Bristol City Supporters' Trust, said the views of almost 3,000 supporters were taken into account before the designs were drawn up.
He said: "I'm very enthusiastic about both the design that has been put forward and the way the club has involved supporters and the local community to help shape it.
"In the survey of fans there was an overwhelming expression of interest that they didn't want a soulless bowl which fans have experienced at some away grounds.
"They were at pains to make sure the new City stadium had lots of individual features. The four-stand idea will help achieve that and ensure it has its own identity.
"If we were in the Premier League, 30,000 would sell out. People will be attracted to the stadium anyway if the surroundings are top class. In Sunderland, when they moved from Roker Park to the Stadium of Light, the attendances doubled."
Of the naming rights, he added: "This (building a new ground) is going to be an expensive process and the club needs as much money as possible.
"I'd rather have a top-quality stadium that was named after a sponsor than having a ground which wasn't as good and was called something like Ashton Vale Stadium."
Anthony Gissing, vice chairman of the Bristol City Supporters' Club, said: "We are impressed with the artist's impressions. It looks like a proper football stadium and supporters' views have been taken into account. A capacity of 30,000 is about right for a club in the Championship."
Mr Lansdown believes a new stadium is essential to establishing City as a club to be reckoned with.
He says that with 13,500 season ticket holders and a new generation of City supporters emerging, Ashton Gate, which has a capacity of 21,500, will not be big enough.
Mr Lansdown said the club could increase the capacity of the new stadium to 42,000 in order to bid for venue status should the Football Association's bid to stage the 2018 World Cup be successful.
There would be scope to increase the capacity by 12,000 by putting in additional seats behind both goals.
A formal application to the Football Association – which hopes to bring the World Cup to England – would have to be made by Bristol City Council.
Last month, the council's Labour leader Helen Holland says the authority would be "ready to rise to the challenge" and it is understood that talks have already been held between the council and the FA.
On Thursday, Mr Lansdown also unveiled plans for a stadium concourse where fans can meet before the game.
The 42-acre proposed stadium site borders the David Lloyd fitness centre, the Long Ashton park and ride, Silbury Road and Ashton Drive, south-west of Winterstoke Road and half a mile from City's existing stadium at Ashton Gate.
On the drawing board alongside the stadium are two possible areas of housing, shops, a rapid bus route, flood balancing pond and "ecology corridor" at the edges.
The possibility of a new music arena for Bristol being built on the site has been touted, although the South West Regional Development Agency says there are no plans for an arena in the pipeline.
The chairman said: "Most people have been positive about what they have seen and heard. We don't want to reproduce Ashton Gate but we want something personal to Bristol rather than something dumped on a piece of land somewhere."