A number of Newcastle United’s top targets have played in some of the most iconic stadiums in the world, but what about the prospect of calling St James’ Park home? Eddie Howe certainly has no doubt that the cathedral on the hill will help the Magpies in the transfer market this summer after his side qualified for the Champions League.
“Wherever they are in the world, they are seeing an incredible spectacle and they are sampling the St James’ Park atmosphere and feeling,” the Newcastle boss told reporters last month. “You can see the togetherness of the whole club. Hopefully they are seeing a team perform well and see that Newcastle is a great place to play football at the moment.”
You can see why a number of questions in our Big Newcastle Forum relate to St James’. Thousands of you have already had your say – if you haven’t, what are you waiting for? – on whether the stadium should be the club’s off the field priority and what size capacity you feel the black-and-whites need.
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When participants in the survey were asked what they would do with St James’, some opted to move to a new purpose-built stadium. However, those at the top at the club want to exhaust every possible avenue to stay put.
As complicated as it would be to increase the capacity, even with modern stadium techniques, Newcastle have at least struck a deal to buy back the long-term lease of the land at Strawberry Place behind the Gallowgate End. It is worth pointing out that this was land that Sir John Hall and Freddy Shepherd’s ownership first bought from Nexus with expansion very much in mind before Mike Ashley later sold it to developers. Now, it is back in the hands of the club.
Sir John hailed the move, going as far as to say ‘they need that bit back to do the Gallowgate End’. Regardless of whether that land is ultimately required, or not, the hierarchy want to make the most of St James’ – from improving the ticketing system to offering better food and drink options – and ChronicleLive understands part-owner Amanda Staveley even spoke to local architects about the stadium while networking a few months ago. Just last week, on the Business of Sport podcast, Jamie Reuben referenced ‘possible stadium expansion one day’.
That is a long-term dream, of course, but, in the interim, Reuben has also spoken about how you ‘need to invest in your stadium, you need to invest in your infrastructure, you need to invest in other non-footballing parts of your business to get the commercial revenue up in order to financially invest on the pitch.’ That work has already started to ensure the stadium is Champions League ready come the start of the season to accommodate the swathes of UEFA delegates who will jet into Tyneside.
ChronicleLive understands Robertson, the construction firm who have helped to transform the club’s training ground, have been enlisted at a time when safe standing is being installed in Strawberry Corner; the club’s hospitality offering is being strengthened; and those at the top are speaking with events company Sela, who are the club’s new front of shirt sponsor, on ideas for a fan zone outside the stadium.
This investment will be music to the ears of Russell Jones. It was the club’s former executive director who helped design and deliver the stadium that we know today.
“It’s brilliant,” he told ChronicleLive. “It’s moving forward again and it’s in a process. The stadium does symbolise the situation. Give the fans the best facilities – that’s all they have got to do.”
Article by Ciaran Kelly – View the original article here