Continuing the ground debate, Shaun Nicholls offers his thoughts on whether Fratton Park should be redeveloped or alternative options explored.
Hi Pompey fans please be kind this is my first ever blogpost and probably the longest thing I’ve written since my GCSEs in 2002.
A little about me, I’m Shaun and have been a Pompey fan since the Watford midweek game in 1992 days after the semi-final. I was hooked instantly and have been to games every season since and had a season ticket for the last 4 seasons. But enough about me onto the blog.
When I saw the tweet earlier this week about views on redevelopment of the Fratton Park or move away I knew it would be a good debate and one I’ve read for a few years but one I felt I would like to break my blogging virginity to. These are my views of a 29 year old ex-soldier turned engineer. I’m going to try and argue both sides before saying where I stand, so here goes and wish me luck.
First off I’ll start with Fratton Park, which was first built in 1898, so is as old as the club and to be frank parts of the ground look 117 years old. But we love the old girl, she has character, charm, history and atmosphere that the only ground that has the same feel that I’ve been to is Goodison.
Currently our capacity is below 20k but we would hopefully want to see 30k especially if we are to be able to hold our own in the championship. So how would it be done, well the Notth Stand would have to be knocked down and totally rebuilt to include the modern day facilities a stadium would require, offices, bars, restaurants that can be turned into conference rooms during the week but most important would be corporate boxes, plus an increase in capacity to around 15k.
Next up, we have the next stand we could develop and I like the idea that the Fratton End could become 2 tier with an increased capacity but being new alongside the north stand we could see the corner filled in taking it to the around 7-8k.
The next to be redeveloped would be the Milton End, knock it down and rebuild, but with rail seats so that seated it would be 3200 but if safe standing was to be passed it would give us an increase of up to 5700. But away fans would need to move to offer that in my opinion.
And lastly the South Stand, the real character, the Archibald Leitch stand with the mock Tudor entrance. We could redevelop it but more likely it would be left as is and repaired along the way.
Also, the ground is central, it has train, bus and good routes to the motorway, but is also walkable for many who live within the city. The local pubs offer a great choice on pre match drinks, and most like a drink before watching us play especially in the last few years.
But, we knew it would come. The old girl is just that old so work would need to start in the next five years before we have more problems such as have been resolved in the last few years, like CCTV and floodlight issues otherwise we will be throwing money at just keeping the ground open.
Then there is the biggest problem for me, we are almost landlocked, would there be enough space behind the Fratton End for three cranes to raise a roof the length it would require to go, the Milton End would be similar but not as bad due to knocking it down, but will always have height issues due to the houses behind. And the rebuild would have to be stand by stand so would take a long time to complete.
Now for the other side of the argument. A new stadium.
It’s benefits are obvious in that it’s new so would have less maintenance costs. It could be incorporated into a bigger development with Portsmouth City Council and build a proper area we could enjoy, a ski slope, a conference centre and it could have all the office space, the meeting rooms etc built into it so it would be earning money 52 weeks of the year not just 23-25 days like Fratton park does. It could be a concert venue which until the summer gone Fratton hadn’t been in my lifetime. It also doesn’t have to be a soulless bowl of Reading, Leicester, Boro, etc because what creates atmosphere? Fans or the ground?
It would also see a rise in fans and a new generation of fan that suddenly goes because they don’t have to walk through urine in the toilets, they don’t have to be crushed at half time waiting for a drink like in some stands. Every club that has opened a new stadium has seen an increase in supporter, from Brighton getting 7k at Withdean to 25k at the AMEX to reading getting who were getting 9k at Elm Park to now getting double that. People want modern facilities and want comfort.
The downsides to a new stadium are that we don’t have anywhere in the city to build it, so it would be out of town most likely sort of place is Horsea Island or King George V playing fields which would need new transport links from all methods. It would lack history and character no matter how much they tried it wouldn’t be Fratton would it? It would also cost a lot of money in one hit to get it built. I read somewhere that it is around £1500 per seat in a new build stadium so we are looking at £45m for a 30k stadium.
What’s the best option? I don’t know, I honestly don’t know. I feel that a modern out of town stadium would be good but would miss the old girl. But, on the other hand I love Fratton Park but feel it is landlocked and would be an expensive slow build. So maybe I’ll just grab my DeLorean set the timer to 1994 and get rid of the bloody Brent geese and see us get Parkway built at Farlington before anyone else had even considered a new ground.
Sorry if it is long but thank you for reading.
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