The Council’s stadium coordinator John Topliss met City fans at the Circle last night to address concerns over the project. It was clear that the fans present were unhappy about the reduction in capacity and concerned that Hull FC and their half-dozen supporters hold too much influence over proceedings.
Mr Topliss stated explicitly that the capacity reduction (from 30,000 to 25,000) had nothing to do with whining egg-chasers, nor is it what the council want, but they stand to lose £3 Million in funding if they go ahead with the larger capacity. Sports England, who hand out lottery money for projects like this, will not fund ‘other elements’ (developments peripheral to the actual stadium) if they feel the capacity exceeds ‘reasonable expectations of attendance figures’. However, the option to expand the capacity to 30,000 or higher exists. On display was a rather smart collection of artist’s renditions featuring a stadium comprising of a single tier bowl seating 20,000, with a second tier of 5,000 seats and 25 executive boxes making up a main stand. Topliss explained that any expansion would be facilitated by removing the roof of the section opposite the main stand and building upwards, laying a new roof above the added seats.
Contrary to claims from Ulleffcee fans that one stand will named the Threepenny stand (Threepenny…decimalisation occurred in 1971 for crying out loud!), Topliss stated neither the stadium or stands have been named and would most likely take on the name of sponsors (Groan, the BoyesBowl anyone?). He also dismissed any notions of having terracing in the new ground as that would contravene licensing laws for new stadia, and conceded that the football team would be the major tenant. Some fans expressed concerns about how revenue from gate receipts, catering, advertising etc. would be shared between the club and council, the project team leader implied this is open to negotiation but the landlords are likely to take rent directly from gate receipts (quite prudent if the current board are still around). When quizzed why this had not been sorted already, he claimed that running costs cannot yet be projected accurately, so the revenue share cannot be decided upon at this time.
After gaining approval from local government, the planning applications were submitted in October, the Secretary of State’s office in Leeds is due to make a decision later this month. If planning permission is granted, Topliss explained, concept design will begin immediately and contractors will be invited to tender bids to undertake the work. Hull City then have six months to commit to the project.
It was added that buying Boothferry Park is an option being considered by the council, but David Lloyd’s asking price exceeded the property’s worth. The council have already reached an agreement with Ulleffcee to purchase the Bullshityard, sorry the Boulevard, for reserve and academy games, but Topliss insisted this agreement was not definitive, despite the squealings of FC’s obese owner Shane Richardson .
Topliss finished the evening saying he would convey our concerns to his political paymasters. He tried to remain upbeat but it was clear there were some questions he could not answer, and the projects realisation is far from guaranteed. Many left feeling the thing would never be built and will take a lot of convincing.