Fever-pitch ten­sion in de­bate over Dons sta­dium

Foot­ball: Seven-hour ses­sion as club, fans and ob­jec­tors ar­gue over plans

The Press and Journal (Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire) - - NEWS - BY NICK HUMPHREYS

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

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