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Pipe Dream Or Dead Duck!

By: Bill Osborne
Date: 14/08/2002

WHEN Mr Alec King resigned recently from the board of Grimsby Town FC, he stated in his letter of resignation that the new stadium project was only a "Pipe Dream."

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Although the club disagree with that opinion, if you refer to the statements made by the club since the announcement of the new stadium and the progress and developments so far, one can see why Mr King feels it is a non-event.

If we go back to the first announcements and details of the agreement with the developer, one can see that although the agreement was the best deal the club could afford at the time, it takes the most important aspects of the project, such as the building commencement date, out of the club's hands.

My understanding of the agreement with the developers is:

  • The developer would purchase the land (My understanding is that this has now been accomplished)

  • GTFC would apply for the usual grants and subsidies that are available to clubs building new stadiums, which are less than the building costs. (I understand that this has been accomplished and commitments have been made)

  • The developer would contribute a significant amount of capital towards the building costs.

  • GTFC would also make a major capital contribution towards the building costs.

  • When the project is completed, the stadium and everything it encompasses within its walls would be the property of GTFC.

  • The areas outside the stadium walls, such as retail sites, franchise areas, hotels etc. would be the property of the developer. (I am not sure if this also includes the car parking area)

    Those are the major components of the agreement and, in view of the clubs almost permanent lack of funds, it is probably the best deal the club could get and, if it happens, it will be a very valuable asset and resource for the club.

    But the question is: Will ever happen? In that respect, Mr King, who was closer to the project than any of us, appears to believe that it will not, and if we look at the current position the project is in, one can understand Mr King's view.

    We can accept at face value the assurances that all the planning and legal steps have been completed and there is no reason to believe that permission to go ahead with the project will not be granted even though there are some loose ends to tidy up.

    But the major factor that will decide the future of the project is the capital that needs to be raised by both the developer and the club.

    In that regard, the club hope to secure their contribution to the building costs through sponsorship opportunities such as the naming rights being sold to Conoco for one million pounds. But in addition to that, the club have to raise a further 3-4 million pounds, at a time when they are having great difficulty in securing approximately 150,000 in sponsorship of the Centre Of Excellence.

    That is not to say that the sponsorship programme for the stadium will not be successful but it will be much more difficult than previously thought. But will not be as difficult as the task facing the developer.

    To raise the funds to contribute their share of the building costs, the developer has to sell almost 5 million pounds in retail space and facilities, in a region that is already overburdened with more retail outlets and space than the community can viably sustain.

    There can be no wonder then, that chairman Peter Furneaux, in a recent statement, said "We are awaiting the developer!" or words to that effect! And on Radio Humberside this week indicated that the stadium would not be built for at least 2 years. We should be so lucky!!

    Previously in answer to questions about the stadium, Mr Furneaux has stated more than once: "The funding for the new stadium is in place"

    That statement appears to refer to the grants and subsidies only, as no funding other than the naming rights have been announced and it appears that so far the developer has had very little success in obtaining commitments for retail developments.

    If my understanding of the situation is wrong, and I hope I am very wrong, now would be the most appropriate time for the club to make a detailed announcement regarding both the club's and the developer's progress, in raising the funds needed to commence building and revealing a draft project development schedule with an expected completion date.

    If on the other hand, the club decline to do so, one could be forgiven in believing that Mr King might have been more accurate in describing the project not as a "Pipe Dream" but as a "Dead Duck!"

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