As part of last night's scheduled Special General Meeting of the Dons Trust membership, Erik Samuelson provided an update on the new stadium.
This article focuses solely on the stadium - DT members will of course receive minutes of the meeting, including the other topics discussed, in the usual way.
Erik provided a summary of the stage we are at now, along with explanations of some of the problems we are dealing with and the proposed solutions. There was also a mention of the timetable for completion, details about how the stadium will look, the consultation process with members, and the sources of finance.
Erik explained that the site clearance is now almost complete and once environmental reports have been signed off the freehold can be transferred to the Club. The Club would therefore be in a position to start work. Erik explained a delay in redirecting the existing culvert on the site which could, on the face of it, delay the handover of the land. This is being addressed by amending the agreements between the Club and Galliard so that the transfer can go through broadly in line with the original timetable.
Erik also reported that a provisional tender for constructing the stadium had been received in late August. As is normal practice, such tenders are put through a value engineering process, where we look at ways to refine the design and reduce costs. As part of this process, the board has decided that we will seek to work with another contractor in order to introduce some different ideas and challenges.
Erik reported how we plan to make some amendments to the stadium design, as recently mentioned on the official website. The proposed changes are included in a section 73 planning application which has now been published for consultation by Merton. He was hopeful that the application can be dealt with at the November Planning Committee meeting. Erik explained that despite the issues around the culvert, the finalisation of the tender, and the section 73 planning application, there has been no significant loss of time and we are still hopeful of completion during the 2019/20 season. In the event that we cannot open during that season, that is not a significant problem and we will simply open for the start of the 2020/21 season.
Our Chief Executive went onto discus the proposals for consultation, making it very clear that no irrevocable decisions had been made about how we will operate various aspects of the new stadium. Erik added that we will be consulting on the stadium design itself, the look of the stadium, and facilities, including what types of beer and types of food that are sold. Also, the fans would be consulted on how the new stadium reflects the heritage of the Club. The intention is to start consulting on the design of the stadium in January and the other aspects at the same time, but the decisions on catering, drinks on sale, etc. do not really need to be made until June. There is more than sufficient time to complete the consultation process.
Erik also talked about safe standing, a subject that members have said they are interested in. Erik reminded members that under the current rules if we were to put in safe standing we would lose grants and access to new grants up to £800,000. Furthermore, if we install a terrace or rail seating it would require barriers, which would need stronger infrastructure than merely seats, thereby adding substantial building costs to the project. Nevertheless, the Club continues to pursue this possibility and we will keep fans informed.
Finally, Erik talked about financing for the new stadium, which comprises proceeds of the sale of Kingsmeadow, a bank loan, funding from Galliard and the proposed grant from the Football Stadia Improvement Fund. He ended by talking about where we are with the crowdfunding proposals, which we will aim to launch in the near future.
Following the presentation, COO Joe Palmer gave a brief demonstration of the new stadium micro site which will be launched later this month.