Southend United’s long-running efforts to develop a new stadium have taken a fresh twist, with the English National League football club scaling back its plans for the project.
In February, Southend-on-Sea Borough Council called on United to make a decision on its proposed new 21,000-seat stadium after granting the project final approval.
The venture in January cleared one of the last remaining major hurdles before construction can commence with the news Secretary of State Michael Gove would not call in the scheme. This came after it was granted initial approval by Southend-on-Sea Borough Council in October.
Council lawyers officially signed off the planning application for the stadium and new training ground facilities at Fossetts Farm, together with new substantial enabling residential scheme, with United being asked to give an update to fans as to when the project will proceed.
United announced yesterday (Tuesday) evening that it is working through the planning conditions to enable commencement of the first phase of works comprising the new training ground pitches. Construction of the new stadium and new residential community will then follow.
The Essex club said its target is to commence the 2024-25 season from the first phase of the new stadium at Fossetts comprising, initially, the south, east and west stands that will incorporate a range of corporate and entertainment space.
The project dates back to April 2017 when United, then a League One club, submitted a detailed planning application for a new 22,000-capacity stadium to the Council. The vision for the scheme has since undergone a number of changes and United has now said it will submit a scoping opinion next week, ahead of a formal application, to further refine the stadium design.
United is seeking permission to amend the design and reduce the overall capacity of the seating bowl from 21,000 to 17,000. Plans for the west stand will be amended to create United’s own version of the ‘Kop End’ with safe standing facilities included. The club is also seeking to increase the commercial space throughout the first phase of the stadium, mainly in the south stand.
United said that through the refinements it hopes the new stadium proposal will deliver enhanced revenue generating opportunities for the club, both on matchdays and non-match days, along with a much-improved supporter experience and better atmosphere. Stadium architects Populous have been instructed to maintain the architectural integrity that is currently proposed.
United said: “A capacity of 17,000 is substantially more than Bournemouth and on par with Brentford, both teams have shown themselves to be well capable of competing towards the top end of the football pyramid. Our aim is to provide an infrastructure to enable us to emulate the success that teams such as these have had.”
The commercial areas will include a range of bars, restaurants, a club shop, ticket office and conferencing and banqueting space. In addition to the Supporter’s Bar in the South Stand, the new stadium will have a large bar area in the West Stand, with music and entertainment. United said it is using this opportunity to carefully plan the various food and beverage offerings, adding that it hopes to share some “exciting proposals” soon.
The extra commercial space in the first phase aims to provide additional non-matchday opportunities, supplementing the commercial offering in the North Stand, where further enhanced commercial activity will take place. The North Stand will comprise corporate boxes, several conferencing rooms and a ballroom capable of seating 700 guests.
United added: “All in all, the planned commercial space will help us move from a 30 day a year business to something approaching a 365 day a year business. The new stadium will be game changing – the club’s future is bright!”
United was relegated from the English Football League (EFL) following the 2020-21 season. The club has played at Roots Hall since the 12,392-capacity stadium opened in 1955, but its location amid housing has meant redevelopment is not an option.
Images: Southend United