English Premier League football club Leeds United has dropped plans to develop a new training ground in favour of focusing on the expansion of its stadium to a revised capacity of 55,000.
The latest development in Leeds’ stadium ambitions came as it was disclosed that a recommendation that a new community sports hub originally earmarked for a site next to Elland Road be relocated to the former home of Matthew Murray High School in the south of the city.
This recommendation is set to be discussed by senior members of Leeds City Council’s executive board on June 23. The Council said the potential change in location for Parklife “reflects ongoing discussions” between itself and United after the club earlier in the year expressed a desire to potentially increase the capacity of Elland Road in the future.
In October 2019, Leeds spelled out a vision to expand Elland Road to a capacity of 50,000. Elland Road, United’s home since its formation in 1919, has a current capacity of around 37,890. Following its return to the Premier League last season, Leeds’ owners, Aser Group Holding and 49ers Enterprises, the business arm of NFL American football team the San Francisco 49ers, have grand ambitions for the club, including its stadium.
While the Council had already agreed on possible expansion to 50,000, a report from the director of city development to the executive board read: “Following the promotion of LUFC to the Premier League and the club securing investment from the San Francisco 49ers’, the club have reviewed their stadium development ambitions and want to preserve their ability to deliver an expanded 55,000-seater stadium at Elland Road, as opposed to a 50,000-seat capacity previously agreed.
“The footprint of this 5,000-seat increase would require the club to work up to a (new) stadium expansion line… inclusive of spectator circulation areas. In turn this would require the relocation of Parklife at Fullerton Park to another area within the Fullerton site, or alternatively the former Matthew Murray High School site.”
The Council said the Football Foundation, which is the main funder of the Parklife programme on four sites in the city, and NHS partners have given their full support to the proposed change in location. It added the club has also agreed to cover the required design development and site investigation fees, and costs that will be needed to help facilitate any potential move, a sum that is projected to reach £325,000 (€378,000/$458,000).
If the proposal is agreed by members of the executive board next week, a plan put forward for a new £25m Leeds training ground on the Matthew Murray site will not progress at the club’s request. The Council said it continues to be committed to engaging with the club regarding any options they may consider for a new training ground in the near future.
As part of the recommendations included in the report, the Council said it will also if approved, agree to work in partnership with the club on a revised masterplan for Elland Road with view that further draft proposals are brought back to the Executive Board before a public consultation at a later date.
Councillor James Lewis, leader of Leeds City Council, said: “The fantastic return of Leeds United to the Premier League has proved to be a great boost to not just fans, but also the city as a whole.
“We remain committed to working with the club constructively in terms of any ambitions they might have in terms of increasing the capacity of Elland Road in the future, which is why following discussions, we agreed to look at what options could be available to move the proposed Parklife project from Fullerton Park to another location.”