Fu­ture: Milne’s mas­ter­plan

The Herald - Herald Sport - - LADBROKES PREMIERSHIP -

At­tempts to re­lo­cate to sites at Kingswells and then Loirston Loch have proved, for dif­fer­ing rea­sons, un­suc­cess­ful. But hopes are high among Milne and his as­so­ci­ates that the plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tion they sub­mit­ted this month to build a £40m 20,000-seater sta­dium and train­ing com­plex at Kings­ford out­side nearby Westhill will be ap­proved.

There has, inevitably, been a protest group, No Kings­ford Sta­dium, set up. A poll of 500 lo­cal res­i­dents has shown that 60 per cent were op­posed to the de­vel­op­ment. But Milne has sensed a def­i­nite shift in the at­ti­tude of Aberdeen sup­port­ers through­out this lengthy process.

“There has been a big, big change,” he said. “I would have said Kingswells was prob­a­bly 40 per cent for to 60 against. With Loirston it had prob­a­bly moved to about 60 to 40. This time around the fans them­selves did a sur­vey and it was 75 per cent in favour. They can see the ben­e­fits they are go­ing to get in a new sta­dium. I think most peo­ple feel short-changed by their ex­pe­ri­ence at Pit­to­drie. A lot of as­pects of the sta­dium are very, very ba­sic.”

Many of those who are still against the move fear their tra­di­tional Satur­day af­ter­noon rou­tine – en­joy­ing a few pints at nearby hostel­ries both be­fore and af­ter the game – will end if Aberdeen do leave Pit­to­drie for Kings­ford. Milne, though, dis­agrees.

“The match-day ex­pe­ri­ence doesn’t need to sub­stan­tially change,” he said. “We have an­a­lysed what a lot of the city-based fans do on match day. They come into town ear­lier in the day for some­thing to eat or drink and then walk from the cen­tre to the sta­dium. But we were able to demon­strate that run­ning a shut­tle bus ser­vice took vir­tu­ally the same time as it took to walk to Pit­to­drie.

“Cer­tainly, the peo­ple from ru­ral ar­eas, who make up around 40 per cent of our fan base, will see a mas­sive ben­e­fit be­cause they won’t have to go through the city to get to or away from the game. It will be just off the by­pass.”

Hearts last year took the de­ci­sion to re­de­velop Tynecas­tle in­stead of build­ing a new sta­dium – a de­vel­op­ment which was met with wide­spread re­joic­ing by both their own sup­port­ers and fans of ri­val clubs who savour their vis­its to the at­mo­spheric Gorgie ground – and hope to open their new main stand early next sea­son.

So why can’t Aberdeen just do the same thing? “We are very con­tained,” said Milne. “To re­de­velop Pit­to­drie to meet UEFA stan­dards would re­sult in our ca­pac­ity go­ing down to around 12,000. The club couldn’t be sus­tained at the top end of Scot­tish football on a max­i­mum ca­pac­ity of 12,000.

“Even more fun­da­men­tal than that, roughly 50 per cent of the funds to de­liver the sta­dium are go­ing to come out of us sell­ing Pit­to­drie. We have con­sent for a res­i­den­tial de­vel­op­ment. The cost of re­de­vel­op­ing Pit­to­drie would be com­pa­ra­ble with build­ing a new sta­dium and we will lose £18m to £20m of the fund­ing.”

It would also involve ex­tend­ing the main stand half­way across Pit­to­drie Street. Milne con­tin­ued: “We cur­rently get dis­pen­sa­tion from UEFA be­cause our plan is to move to a new sta­dium. If it doesn’t hap­pen some time soon we will reach a point where they will say ‘you’ve got one more year to go’. It also costs us up­wards of £500,000 for es­sen­tial main­te­nance every year. Around £500,000 is just be­ing thrown down a hole. ”

Milne has un­doubt­edly en­joyed the most suc­cess­ful spell of his lengthy ten­ure since Derek McInnes took over as man­ager four years ago.

The 66-year-old be­lieves get­ting the green light to build a new sta­dium and train­ing com­plex - and the city coun­cil are ex­pected to an­nounce their de­ci­sion in June – will en­able McInnes and his as­sis­tant Tony Docherty to take Aberdeen to a new level.

“Derek and Tony have made a huge im­pact on the club,” he said “What has been very en­cour­ag­ing for us, and is fun­da­men­tal to be­ing able to sus­tain that level of suc­cess go­ing for­ward, is they have built up a very strong in­fra­struc­ture.

“We are hop­ing when we can de­liver first-class fa­cil­i­ties it en­ables us to kick on. The im­por­tance of the fa­cil­i­ties and the sta­dium can’t be un­der­es­ti­mated. They are Derek’s big, big dis­ad­van­tage at the mo­ment. They have a neg­a­tive ef­fect when it comes to at­tract­ing play­ers.

“The game is go­ing to change sub­stan­tially in the next five to eight years within Europe. We need to make sure as a club we are well po­si­tioned both in terms of how we are per­form­ing on the pitch and the fa­cil­i­ties we have got so that we are seen to be an in­te­gral part of the new Europe.”

OLD UNRELIABLE: Pit­to­drie has been Aberdeen’s spir­i­tual home since 1903, but Stewart Milne says it is un­ten­able to stay for much longer. Pic­ture: SNS

RE­BORN IN THE USA: Niall McGinn says he’s feel­ing back to his best af­ter a two-week break in the States.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.