Home Park grandstand plans can push Plymouth Argyle forward
SO, after the sometimes heated debate, the go-ahead has been given for a new grandstand to be built at Home Park.
The issue has divided opinion among Argyle supporters, as well as the wider community.
But the plans for the grandstand (although some would insist that is not that grand) as part of a £50 million redevelopment of Higher Home Park have now been passed.
It follows a meeting of the Plymouth City Council planning committee last Thursday.
Free consultation for thread/spider vein, mole, skin tag and wart...View details
Free consultation for thread/spider vein, mole, skin tag and wart removal
Contact: 01803 221072
Valid until: Tuesday, December 31 2013
The outcome was unanimous approval for the redevelopment, which also includes a 10-screen cinema, 1,500-seat ice rink and 120-bed hotel.
It was not without considerable discussion, though, by the committee members, as well as some compromise from James Brent, Argyle's owner and chairman.
The Herald came out strongly in support of the redevelopment and, inevitably, that upset those people who have been against it.
That is fair enough. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, especially on issues of such importance.
I have tried to listen carefully to all the pros and cons of the plans and, on balance, I am in favour of them.
I have lived and worked in Plymouth for 17 years. I believe the city has so much potential.
But unless people, such as James Brent, are prepared to invest in Plymouth and turn it into a leisure and tourism destination, I am not sure how that potential can be fulfilled.
Carrying on the same as before is not, to me, an option.
The long-term future of Devonport Dockyard is unclear and Plymouth Airport has closed. Action is needed to push this city forward.
I do have my reservations about certain aspects of the plans for Higher Home Park. For instance, I would prefer the grandstand to be a stand-alone, separate structure.
I would rather there was not an access road to the cinema and hotel behind the Lyndhurst and Barn Park stands which will 'box' the stadium in.
But the bottom line is that Argyle are going to get a £10m, 4,800-seat grandstand without any cost to the club.
Instead, James Brent's Akkeron Group are funding it through the rest of the redevelopment plans.
Presumably, he will hope to make a profit at the end of it all. He is a businessman, remember, and if he does I say 'good for him'.
I do not recall too many other people willing to rescue Argyle out of administration in 2011.
That does not, of course, mean Brent is above criticism. I am sure he would not expect that either, and there should be close scrutiny of his actions.
Without him, though, there would almost certainly be no Football League club in Plymouth.
One of the main criticisms of the new grandstand is that it is too small and the overall stadium capacity of around 17,500 will not be enough.
I do not buy that argument.
I can remember when Argyle were first promoted to the Championship and later became a successful side at that level.
Even then, the average attendances at Home Park were lower than 17,000.
At some stage in the future, hopefully Argyle will be pushing for a return to the Championship, and maybe even a place in the Premier League.
But spending money on seats that will not be needed – apart from one-off 'glamour' FA Cup ties – now or even in the medium term makes no economic sense.
Should Argyle ever get to the promised land of the Premier League there will more likely than not be enough money swilling around to sort out the 'nice' problem of extra capacity.
Some people have questioned Brent's estimates about the amount of 'new' income the grandstand will generate for the club.
They believe the figure of £1m per season, which has been mentioned, through catering and hospitality is overly-optimistic.
To be honest, I am not sure how anyone can accurately forecast the extra money which the new grandstand can generate. But that is no reason, to my mind, not to proceed with the plans.
If Argyle do not make the new grandstand a valuable source of additional income, which can then be reinvested in the playing squad, there will have been a major failing.
For too long now, the club have been struggling on and off the pitch.
The Pilgrims need to break that depressing cycle, and the new grandstand will give them the opportunity to do so.
A successful Argyle is good for the city of Plymouth and its people.