AFC Wimbledon’s progress towards a new stadium back in Merton today took another exciting step forward with a demolition event marking the start of work at Plough Lane.
Wimbledon FC legends Dave Bassett and Ian Cooke were joined by Leader of Merton Council Stephen Alambritis, to celebrate another significant milestone.
To build up to the historic moment, there was a live ‘countdown’ with Dave and Ian, alongside children from two local AFC Wimbledon Foundation community projects, giving the signal for the first demolition crane to begin the process.
The picture above shows (left to right): Mike Watson, Architectural Director at Galliard Homes, Merton Council Leader Stephen Alambritis, former Wimbledon player Ian Cooke, Victor Clinton-Dove, Director of Development at Catalyst, AFC Wimbledon Chief Executive Erik Samuelson, and former Wimbledon manager Dave Bassett with children from the Foundation's Wimbledon Park Development Centre and pupils from Smallwood Primary School in Tooting.
Since the reformation of AFC Wimbledon as a fans-owned club back in 2002, supporters have long wanted a stadium back in its spiritual home and at the heart of the local community.
Mark Davis, Chair of the Dons Trust, said: “Our fans have been waiting a very long time to return to the borough of Merton. Supporters have not only waited patiently, but they have also actively played their part in helping this to happen, making representations to the borough about the importance of a new stadium and making their views known at London and national level. I’m delighted that their patience and commitment is now being rewarded with tangible progress on the ground. We look forward to a new football stadium starting construction once the site is cleared and to AFC Wimbledon playing a proud role in the sporting and cultural life of the borough.”
The club first announced its ambitions to build a new stadium back in 2013 and commencing demolition work on the old Wimbledon greyhound site signals the start of the dream becoming reality. Once the site is cleared, construction will begin on building a new stadium with an initial capacity of between 9,000 and 10,000, with permission to extend this to 20,000.
Construction work on the stadium is expected to start as soon as the site clearance is finished, possibly by late summer, with a 2019 completion date.
Chief Executive Erik Samuelson said: “As a community-owned club we are delighted to be returning to our spiritual home in Plough Lane. In addition to bringing League football back to Wimbledon the new stadium will form a base from which to expand our award-winning community work.
“Ever since we were reformed in 2002 we’ve been nurturing a dream of returning to a stadium of our own, back in Wimbledon. Today is the start of turning that dream into reality. We are on our way!”
Leader of Merton Council Stephen Alambritis said: “This is a momentous day in Merton’s history with the first physical signs of AFC Wimbledon coming home to their spiritual home in the London Borough of Merton.
“The council is extremely proud to have played an important part in the club’s journey since we granted planning permission in 2015. I’m looking forward to seeing the Plough Lane site come alive again and watch the new stadium and housing being built over the coming months.”
The new stadium is part of a wider mixed-use development, built by a joint venture between Galliard Homes and Catalyst housing association. The scheme will deliver 604 new homes and circa 18,000 sq ft of commercial space, as well as a new fitness facility and modern public realm. The JV also intends to provide 177 affordable homes, nearly 30% of the entire development.
Stephen Conway, Executive Chairman Galliard Homes, said: “We are pleased to finally be able to move forward with this exciting development. I look forward to attending AFC Wimbledon’s opening match and celebrating the Dons’ return to the borough once the stadium is complete.”
Victor Clinton-Dove, Director of Development at Catalyst commented: “I am excited to be working with an exemplar developer like Galliard on a great scheme which will create a genuine destination in Merton, and we are proud to have played our part in helping AFC Wimbledon return to their former home. Catalyst’s involvement has also meant that the project now has nearly triple the original provision of affordable housing, providing more good quality homes for first time buyers both through outright sale and shared ownership.”
Pic credit: Stephen Wright, Pro Sports Images.