Future: Milne’s masterplan
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
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