Design & Development

Forest has new ‘master plan’ for City Ground

The 2019 vision for a redeveloped City Ground

Featured image credit: Nottingham Forest

Nottingham Forest is working on plans to expand the City Ground’s capacity to 40,000, with efforts commencing on an initial measure to bring more fans into the Premier League football club’s stadium.

Forest has long-held plans to redevelop what has been its home since 1898, but has been frustrated in recent years by bureaucratic red tape. However, chairman Tom Cartledge has shed new light on revised plans, detailing to The Athletic that the long-term vision involves increasing the stadium’s capacity to 40,000 from its current level of 29,550.

This would see the Bridgford Stand extended by a further 5,000 seats, along with replacing the Peter Taylor Stand with a two-tier 10,000-seat facility. A new training ground is also in the offing, along with a club museum.

Extending the current lease deal with Nottingham City Council, or potentially buying the freehold, is also seen as key. In June 2019, it was announced that Forest would be able to press ahead with redevelopment work at the City Ground after securing a new 250-year lease at the stadium.

Nottingham City Council agreed to grant the club the lease following “extensive negotiations” over a planned expansion to 38,000 seats. The current 50-year agreement was due to be superseded by the 250-year extension, but The Athletic states that the deal was never completed, with Forest instead continuing to operate under the 50-year contract struck in 2011 for the prime real estate on the banks of the River Trent.

In July 2022, the original project, which was initially set to focus on rebuilding the Peter Taylor Stand, was given the green light by Rushcliffe Borough Council. Forest had planned on starting work last summer but it was reported in March that this could be pushed back to 2024 due to complexities relating to the planning permission and other considerations.

Cartledge states that owner, Evangelos Marinakis, is fully focused on redeveloping the City Ground, as opposed to a new stadium, adding the Greek businessman has approved the financing of the redevelopment.

“If the city council gives us the nod, he (Marinakis) wants me to get on with everything straight away,” said Cartledge. “The owner’s appetite hasn’t stopped. He is trying to spend, where appropriate, to improve the fan experience and increase the capacity. We can read into that he wants to stay here.”

He continued: “I don’t think there has ever been a project in this city, across all its assets, where somebody is prepared to put in between £100m (€116.8m/$125.6m) and £200m, as our owner is for both the Peter Taylor Stand and the Bridgford Stand. It will create a huge number of jobs. Hotel rooms will be full, restaurants will be full. The benefits for the city will be huge.”

In November, it was reported that Forest was considering using shipping containers to house new temporary seating areas at the City Ground in a move inspired by Qatar’s Stadium 974. The Athletic said work is now set to begin on a £5m development that will see two sets of corner boxes, which will each have 18 executive suites, added to the stadium, creating space for another 360 spectators.

Cartledge, a lifelong Forest supporter, was named chairman of the club back in August. He is chief executive of Handley House Group, the parent company for four businesses focused on design and architecture. One of these is Benoy, Forest’s long-term development partner in the City Ground scheme.

Cartledge added: “If you add up our 20,000 season-ticket holders, plus the 21,500 or more who were waiting in a queue for tickets, the city of Nottingham should be able to sustain a 45,000 to 50,000-seat stadium. We can get ourselves to 40,000 and, if there was no obstruction, he (Marinakis) would get on it next season. He just wants to get going with it and that’s very exciting.”

Forest last month acknowledged the Premier League’s decision to refer the club over a breach of the organisation’s profitability and sustainability rules. Forest is alleged to have sustained losses above the permitted thresholds for the assessment period ending with the 2022-23 season.