The 21,700 seater stadium that Bristol Rovers plan to build on land near the University of the West of England (UWE) in Stoke Gifford, is now unlikely to be ready for the start of the 2014/15 season, as the club had originally hoped.
Media reports in the past week have quoted Club Chairman Nick Higgs as saying that the opening of the stadium is now “likely” to be delayed to the start of the 2015/16 season, with construction getting underway this summer.
The news comes as the club waits for the decision of a Bristol City Planning Committee on an application by Sainsbury’s to demolish Rovers’ existing stadium at the Memorial Ground in Horfield and replace it with a supermarket, housing and commercial units.
A report prepared by Council officers in advance of the Committee meeting, which takes place tomorrow evening (Wednesday 16th January), recommends that the plans be approved, subject to a number of conditions, although consent will need to be confirmed by the Secretary of State for Communities.
The UWE Stadium project, which was given the go-ahead by South Gloucestershire Council last July, is dependent on the football club selling its current ground to Sainsbury’s.
Construction of the new facility is expected to take 62 weeks and work was originally expected to begin this month, with an anticipated completion date of Spring 2014.
In an article in today’s Bristol Post, Mr Higgs claims the new stadium will bring more than £150 million of investment and hundreds of jobs to the area. The club’s joint project with UWE includes the construction of a new car park for students, which would allow the university to redevelop its ‘car park 20′ (east of Coldhabour Lane) for housing.
Judging by comments on the club’s official forum, fans’ enthusiasm for the project has waned in recent months as the team has slipped into the League Two relegation zone. A number of fans have questioned the commercial viability of the new stadium under the current circumstances but sources close to the club maintain that use of the stadium’s ancillary facilities by UWE on non-match days will generate a significant income stream.
Related link: UWE Stadium (The Journal)