Fever-pitch tension in debate over Dons stadium
Football: Seven-hour session as club, fans and objectors argue over plans
Supporters and objectors of the new £50million Dons stadium at Kingsford packed into the Town House yesterday to deliver their final impassioned pleas ahead of a decision next month.
More than 40 submissions were made for and against the 20,000-seat arena, training academy and heritage museum between Westhill and Kingswells, including one from Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes. The crunch meeting lasted more than seven hours. The project would be delivered in two phases, with the community and sports facilities and football academy constructed first and the stadium built in the second phase.
The club aims to be playing matches at the new stadium in the 2020-21 season. The project will be considered by full council in October.
Tensions ran so high during the lead-up to yesterday’s public hearing that security staff deemed it necessary to search bags of members of the public who arrived to view proceedings from the gallery.
Dons boss Mr McInnes was one of the first to state the case for the move from Pittodrie. He said: “At the same time our performance and results will drop as we are unable to attract good players. (The development) would be a real game changer for us and such a fantastic opportunity for us to strengthen our aims and desire to become a rated club in Europe.”
Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce threw its weight behind the argument, with chief executive Russell Borthwick saying that backing the stadium is vital for the city as it looks to recover from the oil downturn.
Andrew McKinlay, from the Scottish FA, said the governing body was behind the club’s ambitious plans, and that securing a new ground would likely be crucial if the club were to qualify for the Europa League group stages in the future.
Westhill For Kingsford group member Keith Sinclair called on councillors to grant planning permission, and said he and other fans objected to being labelled troublemakers, a barb at No Kingsford Stadium campaigners who claim crowd trouble from supporters would put extra burden on police. He said: “I’m insulted that we’re called hooligans and drunken louts because it suits their agenda.”
Kingswells Community Council and the No Kingsford Stadium campaign group were joined by several residents from the area who joined forces to launch their vehement objections to councillors.
Heather Brock, a Westhill resident, said: “We were told six years ago that the club had to move to a new stadium if it wanted success. The club is now the second best team in the country.
“They are guilty of scaremongering. The Kingsford stadium will be a football stadium, nothing more. It will not benefit the community.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon opted to sit on the fence yesterday rather than take sides in the stadium debate.
Asked for her verdict during a visit to the north-east, the Ayr United fan said: “First and foremost, it’s for the football club to decide what the best future and outcome for it is and I’ll let them debate them and wish them every success on whatever they decide to do.”
“The Kingsford stadium will be a football stadium. It will not benefit the community”
ALL TO PLAY FOR: Dons manager Derek McIness, right, and Ally Prockter, of Aberdeen Community Trust, deliberate over prospects for the stadium