Newly-promoted English Premier League football club Wolverhampton Wanderers has moved to play down comments from chairman Jeff Shi that it could seek to leave Molineux, its home since 1889, in an effort to meet its stadium development ambitions.
Wolves return to the Premier League in 2018-19 for the first time since being relegated in 2011-12 and are currently assessing expansion options for Molineux, should the club retain its top tier status.
These plans include the creation of one of the biggest single-tier stands in the country through the addition of a further 5,000 seats to the Sir Jack Hayward Stand, bringing it up to a capacity of around 10,000 seats.
While it was previously believed there were no thoughts of leaving Molineux, the club is constrained in its development plans by the city centre location of the stadium and Shi told FC Business magazine that a decision will have to be made soon on whether to commit to redeveloping the existing facility or move to a new home.
“I think by the end of the season we will make some crucial decisions on whether to expand the stadium or build a new stadium,” said. “Molineux is important for the fans of course and we are looking at it and have architects looking at designs.
“After this season we will have a decision. The stadium is in the centre of the city; there is no space to expand the stadium too much. We are talking about the maximum size of the stadium, maybe 40,000, 45,000 or 50,000.”
However, managing director Laurie Dalrymple has moved to clarify the club’s position. He told local newspaper the Express & Star: “Whilst we have always been clear about our ambition to grow Wolves on and off the pitch, leaving Molineux would always be a last resort for us.
“We have a magnificent stadium in the centre of the city, but obviously finding space around Molineux to reach our desired capacity may not be easy. However, our ambition remains focused on developing a stadium in the city centre that delivers attendances that could reach over 50,000.
“Ultimately, our focus is on growing the club whilst experiencing success on the pitch, and supporters should be encouraged by the direction we are heading.”
The redevelopment of Molineux has been put on hold since Wolves’ relegation from the Premier League in 2012. The new Stan Cullis Stand, located opposite to the Sir Jack Hayward Stand, opened that year and was converted from a single-tier structure to a two-tier design – a move that proved unpopular with fans.
Chinese conglomerate Fosun, which took over Wolves in the summer of 2016, has major ambitions for the West Midlands club to become an established force in the Premier League. The last major redevelopment of Molineux, completed in the early 1990s, made it one of the finest stadia in English football, but Molineux has since fallen behind many other modern venues.