NEC Harlequins are pleased to announce they are bringing forward exciting new proposals to improve the Stoop Memorial Ground.
The proposals are focused around the replacement of the existing West Stand with a new stand containing approximately 3,850 covered seats and costing around £8 million.
The new stand would raise the capacity of the ground by around 3,200 seats and also provide high quality new facilities for supporters and the Club, including a new Members' bar, a new Club Shop, a wider range of corporate hospitality accommodation, new player and officials' changing facilities and new Club offices.
The Club is also proposing to replace the existing North Stand with a new covered stand providing seating for 2,274 spectators - an increase of 1,656 seats over the existing stand - taking the total capacity of the ground to around 12,500.
Quins Chief Executive, Mark Evans, said: "These proposals represent the most exciting and important developments for the Club since the new East Stand in the mid 1990s."
Explaining the background to the proposals, Mark added: "The proposals are being brought forward to secure the financial future of the Club and ensure that we can continue as a Premiership club at the Stoop.
"First, we must ensure the Stoop meets the minimum criteria for Premiership rugby grounds set out by Premier Rugby which will come into force in 2006. This includes achieving a licenced capacity of 10,000 with a greater level of covered seats than we have at the moment. The new North Stand would go a long way to meeting the criteria but further improvements would still be required.
"Second, we must improve the facilities at the Stoop in order to increase revenue for the Club. The Stoop does not currently provide us with adequate seating, hospitality or commercial facilities from which to operate a successful business and the Club is losing money. This is despite the tremendous support we receive from our supporters and the fact that we are sold out for most home league games. The Club is only able to continue operating because of private investment by the Club's owners, which is clearly an untenable situation.
A planning application for the North Stand has already been submitted to Richmond Council and should be considered by the Planning Committee in the next 2-3 months. The Club are optimistic that it will be granted planning permission and hope to have the stand in place in time for the start of next season.
The West Stand is a much more complex and costly project and is vital to the Club's future. The Club has limited funds available to pay for the stand and will need to subsidise its construction by an 'enabling' residential development on the open area of land in the south-east corner of the site.
The enabling development would need to meet the shortfall between the funding secured by the Club and the overall cost of the new stand. The shortfall is currently estimated to be £3m-£4m but will be determined once the detailed drawings of the scheme and the Club's business case have been finalised. A comprehensive financial justification which addresses this issue will be submitted in support of the planning application which will be submitted to the Council at the beginning of March.
If the planning application is approved by the Council, the Club hopes to start building the West Stand in January 2005 and to have it open for the start of the 2005/2006 season.
Harlequins fan Ed Atkin won the Etihad Airways 'Up and Under' competition at the Northampton Saints game. As a result, he and a friend have won a holiday to Abu Dhabi courtesy of Etihad Airways and the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority.