Reading Borough Council has approved plans for a wide-ranging development project in the vicinity of the Madejski Stadium, home of English Championship football club Reading.
It is hoped the £500m (€594m/$645m) development, known as Royal Elm Park, will enhance the match-day experience for supporters and contribute to the growth of the city and the wider Berkshire area.
Central to the plans will be a new 6,000-capacity convention centre, which the club states will become the largest dedicated conference venue in the south of England. The venue, which will be called The International, will host a range of events, concerts, conferences, leisure pursuits and community meetings. It will also feature an ice rink.
The project also proposes the construction of 600 new homes, a new public square, and retail, leisure and restaurant facilities. Upon completion, the project will create 1,000 new jobs.
Additional benefits of the project will include new railway links to London and a new mainline station to allow for greater ease of access to and from Reading.
“This is a huge boost for Reading, and will deliver a step change in the town’s ability to host international, large-scale conferences and events, which the business community here has long sought,” Reading FC chief executive Nigel Howe said.
“But the scheme delivers more than that. It delivers a new and reinvigorated destination for businesses and the Reading community, and will significantly enhance the match-day experience for our supporters, the driving force behind the club’s success.
“Royal Elm Park is emblematic of the town’s vision for the future, and will play a significant role in driving new and enhanced inward investment, which will underpin the regional economy going forward.”
Work on the project is scheduled to begin in early 2018, pending final planning requirements. It is hoped The International will be open by 2020, with the overall development set to be ready by 2023.
The news comes with Reading currently chasing promotion to the top-tier Premier League. The club is fourth in the Championship with two games remaining and looks set to compete in the end-of-season play-offs.