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Design & Development

Oxford United sheds new light on stadium vision

Featured image credit: Oxford United

English League One football club Oxford United has shed further light on its new stadium plans, stating that the facility will have 25% of its bowl incorporate rail seating, while efforts will target setting new benchmarks in the fields of inclusivity and sustainability.

In October, United, which currently plays at the 12,500-capacity Kassam Stadium, unveiled updated plans and new images for a 16,000-capacity venue it hopes to call home by 2026. Along with the stadium, the wider complex will incorporate a 180-bed hotel, restaurant, conference centre, health and wellbeing space, gym and a community plaza.

United last month adjusted its plans following a public consultation process that saw its project team attend more than 150 meetings. The club has now set out a series of facts and details regarding its potential new home in Kidlington, in 10 key areas of the development.

Stating that it aims to create a “best-in-class venue” that places the visitor experience at the heart of the complex, United said rail seating will be incorporated into 25% of the stadium bowl to provide a safe standing solution to fans. The stadium bowl design will seek to help enhance the atmosphere inside the venue and to also minimise noise and light spill.

United said the plans will create a new benchmark in the UK for a stadium that is inclusive and reduces barriers to participation and involvement. This would see United “provide unrivalled facilities” with toilets that provide a more equal gender split that goes above and beyond current stadium design guidelines and the incorporation of a state-of-the-art sensory room.

United said the stadium will set the standard for accessibility in UK stadia design. The South West corner would include a raised platform to create a space for wheelchair users, their family and friends to use the same concourse and sit together with elevated pitch views.

Wheelchair access and viewing spaces across the length of the West Stand would offer views across the pitch and deliver a significantly higher proportion of accessible seating options than currently available in most UK stadia.

If constructed, United said the new stadium would positively impact on the environment with modern sustainable technology and design incorporated to make the stadium one of the greenest in the UK. The club is committed to becoming net-zero by 2040.

Technology would include using 3,000m2 of solar panels to generate electricity, heat recovery solutions to maximise thermal efficiency, and heat pumps which will provide an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions per year when compared to gas boilers. Furthermore, drainage systems and rain storage and recycling solutions would be installed to re-use rainwater to improve biodiversity.

On this note, the stadium would enhance biodiversity on the land by a net gain of at least 10%. This would be done via vast landscaping work which the club states would “radically improve” the habitat. A dedicated area would be developed to the north of the stadium and trees to the south would be protected.

Prior to the club releasing updated plans in October, the project faced a legal challenge from environmental campaigners. The challenge from the Friends of Stratfield Brake group centred on the club’s lease deal at Kassam Stadium.

United claims the development would help improve wellbeing in the community. The installation of sensory gardens and additional landscaping are designed to promote positive mental health.

Meanwhile, from an economic benefits standpoint, United claims the project will mean some 420 construction jobs will be created, at least 20 apprenticeships, plus 320 direct full-time equivalent jobs at the stadium and 142 indirect full-time jobs will be supported and retained. Furthermore, 95 full-time equivalent jobs supported by off-site football supporter spending is envisioned as being created.

United states that more than £32m (€37.5m/$40.4m) would be generated per year in the local economy if the stadium is built.

It had been expected that a planning application for the stadium would be submitted before the end of 2023. Oxford United’s development director, Jon Clarke, said today (Wednesday): “We are making great progress. I fully appreciate the anticipation and the aim is to submit planning at the earliest opportunity. However, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity not just for Oxford United, but for Oxfordshire and beyond and it’s crucial that we get it right.

“Following the public consultation and on-going meetings we have gathered a huge amount of feedback and are positively adapting our plans where appropriate. The scale of the response, which saw more than 70,000 people engage with the project, has meant our timescale has moved slightly. This is not unusual in a significant community infrastructure project of this nature. I expect us to be able to submit our full planning application soon.”

He added: “The club has always been clear, it must move to a new home. The new stadium is critical to the future of an Oxfordshire institution that has been around for over 130 years. The club’s shareholders are committed to the development, but we now need support from key stakeholders to complete the land lease and proceed to safeguard the club while providing an incredible venue everyone can enjoy.

“It’s critically important to the club, but I believe it’s also vitally important to the region, not just for the numerous health and economic benefits the club delivers to the county, but also because Oxfordshire needs first-class leisure and conference facilities to be proud of.”

United announced in June last year that AFL Architects, Ridge and Partners, Mott MacDonald and Fabrik would make up the team seeking to deliver the new stadium.