We are still waiting for details of how AFC Wimbledon and Galliard Homes have toned down their Plough Lane proposals to make them more appropriate for the location – Merton Borough Council planners are checking them out before they are made available for public consultation.
But we do at least have some information, which merits a genuine thank you to our self-styled local community club for starting to let the community know a bit about what they have planned for our neighbourhood.
So here are four facts we now know about AFC Wimbledon’s plans for Plough Lane…
1. If the stadium scheme wins approval from planners, construction work is expected to take 13-14 months. The club had originally hoped to get the go-ahead by June, with building work starting in April 2016, but that timetable will obviously need revisiting given the delay in tweaking the plans after they were so roundly rejected on original presentation.
2. Building costs for the stadium are expected to exceed a whopping £20million. Freehold for the stadium will be owned by Merton Borough Council; the club is hoping to get a long-term lease of 250 years.
3. We even have an idea of how the club (which currently relies on donations from supporters to help pay players wages) aims to fund its ambitious plans. Fans have been told that Galliard Homes will make a contribution towards the project (payback for being allowed to piggyback their controversial housing development scheme on the stadium project), there will be cash from the sale of Kingsmeadow to Chelsea FC, plus a bank loan. There’ll also be a bit of money from stadium naming rights and a community share issue.
4. The new plans will include parking for visitors to the squash and fitness club, thus making it possible for it to function. Which is great news.
And one BIG thing we still don’t know: How on earth is AFCW going to fill that new stadium on an ongoing basis after the initial novelty factor wears off and visitor numbers die back down to more normal levels? The current AFCW stadium at Kingsmeadow has a maximum capacity of 4,850 but rarely sells out. Average attendance for the 2014-15 season was 4,073, down 1.5% on the previous season.
There’ll have to be one almighty bump in popularity for the League Two club if it’s going to make that stadium work financially.