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Club News

New Stadium FAQs Part 1

10 questions answered on new stadium proposals

15 February 2022

As has been widely publicised, consultations are currently taking place after the announcement of a preferred site for the U’s at Stratfield Brake.

We understand that fans, local residents and other stakeholders are very interested in the club’s proposals for a new stadium and we remain committed to being open and communicative on a subject which we hope excites everyone as much as it does us.

With that in mind, we will be initiating a series of FAQs where we will try to answer some of the most frequently asked questions that we have received.

It is imperative that this is understood to be initial, speculative thoughts on how the club will look to proceed with its proposals should the County Council agree to proceed with the lease on Stratfield Brake.

If the County Council does choose to proceed, the site would still be subject to the planning process, including full public consultation, and therefore we are not in a position to be able to make definitive commitments at this stage but wanted to provide some of our initial thoughts.

Whilst these are not firm proposals, if given permission to proceed, we are committed to upholding these principles throughout the formulation of our proposals and will seek to make them binding and linked to planning approval (should we receive it) once we are in a position to do so.

1.Why does the club need to move from its existing stadium?
As our fans will know, our licence agreement at the Kassam Stadium ends in 2026, from which point Oxford United will have nowhere to play. Over the years, the club has explored a number of options to secure the long-term future, including looking at options with our current stadium. These options are fully exhausted. There is not any possibility to purchase the stadium from the current owner. There is also not the option to extend the licence agreement. Other sites have also been extensively researched.

We employ a large number of both full- and part-time staff, are the only professional sports club in the county, have almost 20,000 people participating within various projects in addition to our professional players and over 250,000 registered fans. We also have thriving female, disability and walking football programmes. Oxford United In The Community works with thousands of Oxfordshire residents, many of whom are vulnerable. All of this is at risk should we not find a new home.

In addition, an independent economic and social impact report states that the gross value-added economic impact of Oxford United on the local economy is over £10m. Should a new stadium be built, these numbers will only increase, we estimate for example that an additional 800 jobs could be created.

2.Why is the proposed lease for as long as 250 years?
It is very important that we protect the long-term future of the football club. The 250-year lease provides security of tenure which in turn helps raise funds for the development whilst protecting this very important community asset. Long-term leases are commonplace in such circumstances, and it will also allow similar security to the community sports teams. We have always been clear that any such move will need to protect the long-term future of the club and allow for sustainable future growth and a 250-year lease would enable both of these objectives.

3.If the county council choose to proceed, what happens if the club doesn’t achieve planning permission?
We are under no illusions that achieving planning on this site will be a long and technical process. Whilst we are confident in our ability to demonstrate the planning gain our proposals may bring, that does not mean that any decision is guaranteed, and we have always urged fans to remember that this is just the start of a long road. However, the 250-year lease, should the county council choose to proceed, would be conditional upon:
a) Obtaining planning permission and,
b) Providing evidencing of funds for the project.
Should either of these conditions not be fulfilled then the lease will not fall into place.

4.What is the proposed capacity of the new stadium?
We believe an 18,000-capacity stadium would be the correct size, but we would need to work with the council and local authorities and consider access, transport and many other factors before final planning is submitted.

5.How many first team matches are expected to be played in the proposed new stadium annually?
On average we have 26 home games per year which are mainly on Saturdays (3pm) and Tuesdays (7:45pm) during off-peak hours. The club may get up to 30 home games if we have good cup runs. Unlike the Kassam, which we have no control over, there will be opportunities to use the new community stadium. Areas for community events such as disability sports, women’s football, school sports/events, educational programmes and events, food markets, and seasonal events (Christmas markets/events, etc.) are all within our initial thoughts. This is all subject to planning, full public consultation and detailed access studies. We therefore anticipate maximum use on match days (26 to 30 times a year), with manageable use throughout the rest of the year.

6.What measures will the club be proposing to ensure that noise can be minimised during games?
This is a very important aspect for the club. The current stadium only has three sides as the fourth stand was never developed. This has also meant that the fan noise simply leaks out of the stadium, reducing the fan experience dramatically. The club will hire an acoustic expert to develop a “Noise Chapter” for the community stadium environmental statement, which will include 3D modelling of the noise breakout from the stadium with the intention to ensure the least amount of noise escapes the stadium. Oxford United are committed to developing a stadium with all four sides, meaning noise is captured within all four walls. The design of the stadium and the materials used will be carefully selected to help capture and keep the fan-generated noise inside the stadium. This is to ensure the best atmosphere within the stadium whilst also ensuring the least amount of noise escapes to the surrounding areas. Parking will be directed to Oxford Parkway, ensuring minimal traffic noise is generated on site.

7.How eco-friendly will the stadium be?
This is a key part of our design and planning work, and we look forward to deploying state-of-the-art methods and designs to reduce the impact of the development and make the ground as carbon neutral as possible. Water capture, solar power, heat pumps, a state-of-the-art energy capture centre (Arsenal FC helped pioneer this at the Emirates), rooftop and vertical gardens (similar to Wimbledon) and other regenerative methods are all being considered. The club have already started discussions with specialist consultants as we are eager to become a more sustainable club in all aspects of our day-to-day work as well as ensure clear biodiversity and sustainability targets are built into the stadium scheme from the very outset.

As far as the club is concerned, Yellow + Blue = Green.

8.What experience do the club directors have in developing stadiums?
The current ownership group has world leading experience in sport, stadium development and are the forefront of the global sustainability agenda. Further details of the key stakeholders will be released in future FAQs.

9.What other supporting facilities are proposed?
The final answer to this is subject to a detailed feasibility study, design work and full public consultation and planning permission. The aspirations are for a fan zone, conferencing and exhibition facilities in the stadium, a boutique business hotel and community sports facilities. There have been discussions about including a multi-functional indoor arena space and a high quality wellness/health retreat, but the final designs are all subject to further analysis and exploration. The community stadium is the anchor for the eco park, but it will require some enabling development to help fund the scheme and provide a destination that Oxfordshire can be proud of.

At this moment we only have high-level concepts and illustrative ideas. The final proposal will be subject to a detailed commercial viability study and business planning. We also need to undertake site appraisals for ecology, landscape, transport, heritage and infrastructure, including a topographical & ground condition study, site constraints review and environmental impact assessment to inform the design/masterplan. This will inform a tender process to select an architect who can the deliver the designs and massing for the scheme to submit for consultation and then for planning. Designs cannot be finalised now due to the need for public consultation and stakeholder engagement to inform the designs and layouts, etc. This will have significant impacts on any final design and planning application.

10. How will the club ensure that the stadium is inclusive for all fans, including catering for disabilities, young children, all genders and the local community?
This is another key part of our planning. And will form a central plank of the tender process to select an architect. The club wants to ensure that any new stadium is genuinely and truly a stadium for all, with easy access, outstanding catering, welcoming amenities and a ‘family friendly’ environment.


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