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Dead Or Alive? - The Stadium Debate.

By: Bill Osborne
Date: 21/12/2002

THE new stadium debate reached its climax at the AGM last week when the developer declared it as unviable at the present time. This is hardly surprising news as it was obvious to most that that the project would be some time away if at all.

But the question is; will it ever happen? The answer to that will rely on:

  • The developer's success in attracting a big name retailer to the site.

  • The club's ability to raise their portion of the building costs.

    As the developer has to contribute more than 5m to the costs, he will not be able to do that unless the big name retailer surfaces. Gerald Knight said he is confident that this will happen once the formal planning permission is granted.

    If that were the case, other smaller retailers would join in. Whenever a major retailer takes space, smaller ones latch on to their pulling power. Which is why the most successful shopping centres have major retailers in their facility.

    But Grimsby is a little different. The experts in the field warn that Grimsby is over subscribed with retail outlets and, based on the catchment area, are already carrying more than the town can sustain.

    Nonetheless, if Knight can attract one big name to the project, his work will be made easier in attracting others to becoming involved. It will not be easy but unless he succeeds the project is doomed to fail, unless a surprise benefactor can be found.

    The club have a relatively easier task. Gaining sponsorship for a football ground that is "ready to go" is not as difficult as it appears. They have already gained a naming rights sponsor for the stadium and one can expect that naming rights to particular stands will be next on the list.

    Other areas of the stadium will also be available to prospective sponsors and one can expect that some of the current sponsors of Town's activities will become involved.

    One matter that needs to be cleared up is the statement made by chairman Peter Furneaux that "The funding for the new stadium is in place." In that context it appears that Furneaux is talking about the grants and subsidies that clubs receive from the FA and League for new stadiums. Those funds appear to have been committed to the project and will be made available once the project goes ahead.

    So is the doom and gloom surrounding the new stadium justified?

    The delay to the commencement is disappointing and is a serious setback to the plan. But all is not quite lost. It cannot be. Grimsby Town cannot survive at Blundell Park. Even with maximum gates, it falls short of the income requirements and with wooden stands, it will not be allowed to go on forever.

    So the stadium is about more than improved facilities. It is a crucial part of the long-term survival of the club. Mr Knight therefore carries a huge responsibility on his shoulders and we should all be hoping that he is successful in his aims.

    Only people bolder than myself would venture to forecast the result. But all is not quite lost and as long as the club continue to treat the project as its highest priority we may achieve a positive outcome.

    The Great Coates Nimby's should not feel too complacent. The "fat lady" has not even begun rehearsals yet and it will not be until she sings that we will know whose song she will be singing!

    Did I hear a faint cry of 'Mariners'?

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