Design & Development

Cambridge United stadium redevelopment ‘at a crossroads’

Featured image credit: Steve Daniels/CC BY-SA 2.0/Edited for size

Cambridge United owner Paul Barry has said that the League One club is at a “crossroads” when it comes to the development of Abbey Stadium.

Cambridge completed the purchase of the stadium in September last year. The ground was previously owned by property developer, manager and investor Grosvenor for almost 12 years.

The purchase of Abbey Stadium also included the Thrifty car hire site at the front of the ground, along with the bungalow on the front right of the stadium. Upon completion of the purchase, Barry said that the club would modernise and improve the stadium, but the ownership of an on-site Supporters Club building presents a potential stumbling block.

Barry is set to meet with the Supporters Club Committee on August 7. Ahead of the meeting, Barry has published an open letter on the club’s website, which includes an offer to the Supporters Club to fund and build a new facility.

Barry said that the club has two options on the table for Abbey Stadium. One would be a modernisation of the venue that would require significant investment but allow the club to grow its capacity and commercial revenues. Barry said this option would allow Cambridge to “keep pace” with other clubs.

The other option, which Barry described as “effectively the status quo”, would include incremental improvements to the stadium. “This would inevitably mean we would be overtaken – not immediately but over time – by other clubs of a similar size with better, more modern facilities who can offer a better spectator experience and generate more non-match day income which they can then reinvest on the pitch,” Barry said.

He added that unless the club owns the Supporters Club site, it will be unable to redevelop Abbey Stadium. The site is viewed as critical, with the relocation of the building enabling the club to redevelop the Habbin stand at Abbey Stadium.

Barry has offered to provide a new building for the Supporters Club on the existing stadium footprint under a 99-year lease that would include guaranteed parking and access from Newmarket Road.

The football club would pay construction and internal fit-out costs for the new building, and the only financial obligation of the Supporters Club would be to pay for the maintenance of the building. Cambridge has also committed to legally protecting Abbey Stadium through a Golden Share concept to prevent its future sale.

Abbey Stadium has been Cambridge’s home since 1932. Outline designs for the stadium development project will be revealed next month.