|CAPACITY INCREASE ON THE CARDS
(Thursday 21st October 2004)
Supporters, Club officials and local residents are set to enter into a war of words over plans to increase the capacity of Adams Park in order to satisfy the needs of London Wasps. Club Chairman Ivor Beeks re-inforced the Board's intention to keep the rugby Club as tennants but indicated that the popular Valley End terrace may have to give way for a larger seated area.
Wasps, who are contracted to stay at Wycombe until the end of the 2004/5 season, need to give a decision to the RFU before the end of the year on whether they intend to stay at Wycombe. Adams Park currently meets the new RFU minimum capacity requirement of 10,000 but Wasps want more space to take advantage of the high demand for some of their games.
Wanderers' ground capacity is currently restricted by council planning legislation and major changes to emergency services access routes, as well as the stadium itself, would be required to meet the suggested new capacity of 12,500.
Any changes would lead to lengthy discussions regarding funding as well as overcoming the inevitable objections from local residents who have seen matchday nuisance doubled since the arrival of the rugby club in August 2002.
The Wanderers Chairman revealed at the Fans Forum on 14th October that the Club had been in regular meetings with the local authorities and an investigation had taken place on routes in and out of the ground. Beeks commented "The local authority have identified that there is a route where we can get emergency services through without using Hillbottom Road. A feasibility study took place on that. Wasps were quite pleased about that because I think at the end of the day they do really want to stay here even though they have got a problem with Queens Park Rangers. And to honest we would like to keep them here."
Improving the service routes would open the way for the 10,000 limit to be lifted by the Council. Without modfication the current configuaration of the ground can hold just under 11,000 with the previously unused standing areas in front of the old main stand and the Valley End terrace utilised to their full safe capacity. However, in order to reach the 12,500 figure it's unclear what plans are afoot. Simply building a mirror image of the existing away end would actually reduce the potential capacity of the ground, while other options appear to be cost prohibitive at time when Wanderers attendances average under 5,000 and budgeting at the tightest since the Club move to Sands in 1990.
The Chairman, answering concerns that the terracing may be scrapped as part of the plans, commented "In any partnership both parties have got to satisfied with what they have got and what they are getting. And we have to make sure Wasps are going to be satisfied with what they are going to get and we have to be satisfied with what we are giving them is OK for this Football Club. I don't think we have a bad track record in that matter up until this moment in time" The Chairman went on to say that he didn't see a problem in increasing the capacity of the stadium in order to keep Wasps at the Club, adding "It would increase the stadium which would otherwise be extremely difficult. So at least if we were to move up the divisions we would at least have another 1,2, or 3,000 more capacity. I think also the stadium would be better. I think the noise that comes out of the away end because it's taller and because it's enclosed is far greater. I not saying that you don't make enough noise in the home end, I'm saying that the acoustics as a result of increasing the stand on the other side has made a huge difference."
Suggestions that a new stand should be fully terraced and thus taking the potential capacity of the ground to the required 12,500 were dismissed by the Chairman, as he said "The ambitions we have are to actually go into the First Division, which is the Championship now. If that's the case then I'm sure you are well aware that at some stage it will have to be all seated and we have a period of time to do that. At this moment in time we haven't got any ideas about dealing with it in any other way."
These comments have since prompted a reaction from the Supporters' Club's at Wycombe. A joint statement provided by the Official Supporters' Association and the Indepedent Supporters' Club due for publication in the Bucks Free Press on Friday 22nd October said "If the necessary capacity change at the Stadium to accommodate Wasps' requirements can be agreed, both the Official and Independent Supporters Clubs strongly urge the directors of the new PLC to effect this by doubling the standing terrace at the home end. Not only would this meet Wasps' minimum requirements, it would also enhance the atmosphere and acoustics. However, it would also be the cheapest option for the short to medium term. In view of the PLC's desire to forge closer links with the supporters, this would unanimously be the most popular option."
Football League legislation calls for member clubs to have 'all seater' stadiums following the third year after any promotion to its top division. This would mean that if Wanderers were to gain two straight promotions, they would have until the start of the 2009/10 season to convert to an all-seater set-up assuming that the legislation remains unchanged. There have been calls in recent times for 'safe-standing' areas to be re-introduced into all-seater stadiums, while currently terraced areas are loved by many fans in the lower divisions.
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