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Re: Brentford stadium plan changes
Posted by: HMRH
Date: 26/08/2017 15:58
Finno posted this earlier and seems to give more information

The following is a long but interesting view of the proposed changes at Brentford, from someone on one of their fans forums. He seems to be in 'the know' but who knows?!!

But if it's all fairly accurate, it seems we're still on board, and will be a small enough stadium that we won't feel like we're rattling around in. Also, it's being built by the people that built the Amex, which is an excellent ground,

Lionel Road: A GPG Preview
The New Stadium Design
As you know, I was invited to Smartodds HQ to meet Cliff Crown and Nity Ray on the change in plans of the stadium. Matthew also sat-in for about 15 minutes. I did invite the other mods but none of them could make it (which was quite useful as they weren't invited by Cliff). I am sure I was only invited through gritted-teeth by Cliff and the invite arrived at GPG Towers way after BU, BIAS and Beesotted invitations arrived. Nevertheless I got to see the plans, see a couple of images and (most importantly) discuss the new design and the reasoning behind it.

I didn't make any notes of the meeting at the time, so this is a summary of our discussions created a few days later in a old man's memory. So there may be some (minor) errors. There is no doubt that what is below is more of an analysis of what was said "in the round" rather than verbatim quotes. Some "off the record" bits and pieces were shared, but nothing that I felt was material.

Redesign Rationale
There is undoubtably a risk of escalating construction costs. We've all read about plenty of construction projects where the costs have spiralled out of control. I can understand that utilising a very high percentage of the available land costs exponentially more as one nears 100% utilisation. Especially when you are surrounded by a live running railway. Moving the site South must significantly reduce the cost of construction of both the North Stand and means that the schedule of the construction of the building in the North East corner can be flexible as it can be accessed after the stadium build has started.

There is also a change in economic outlook which is definitely more volatile and unpredictable that it was previously (for various reasons). Looking at the economic indicators and the recent estimates of housing prices it is certainly.....more uncertain.

The next bit is probably contentious with some individuals and no doubt some individuals that have been involved with BIAS and BU both now and in the past. For many years we have all been told and accepted that we need non-matchday revenue in order to survive. Then of course, Matthew turned-up; bought the club from BU; we got promoted; and Matthew's ambitions remain undiminished for Premier League football. He even restated his ambition in the press release today. Those of us that went through the dark days of Noades, post-Noades, and pre-Benham are all concerned with the stewardship of the club and the post-Benham era. The accepted mantra to this is that the non-matchday revenue from the Lionel Road stadium will fund the club and therefore we can compete on a even-keel with other clubs with similar facilities. However, I think times have moved on.

Reading the reiteration of Matthew's ambitions in the press release today it is clear that Matthew is obviously here for the long-term. There is no prospect of him moving on anytime soon, and he isn't exactly....old. Up until June 2016 the Lionel Road project has cost Matthew 27 million. Therefore it is unlikely (but certainly not impossible) that the stewardship of the club will become an issue anytime soon. Also, with a new stadium the club will be a saleable asset. A Championship Club with a non-dilapidated stadium IS an asset that others will covet, especially one in London. We know we have already had interest from overseas...

All of the above makes me believe that this is only a very slight chance that the club will have to be "rescued" by its supporters any time soon.

Even if it did then the premise that what is essentially a hospitality company can make a guaranteed profit year-on-year in an untested location with the plentiful set of hotels at Heathrow nearby does not come without risk. In fact there is also a risk that a single bad year in hospitality could ruin the football club that is was intended to support.

Matthew was very clear at the meeting that the most important thing for him was to de-risk the project. I understand what he means by that. There is a chance that a complex construction project such as the existing design, which utilises a high percentage of the land available, which is on a restricted site with limited access; could have it costs blow-up to such an extent that it exceeds Matthew's means. That is a real risk which would certainly place the club in other hands. This alternative design radically simplifies the construction and therefore significantly reduces the financial risk and (perhaps ironically) should be welcome by us "rank-and-file" supporters as it means that the future of the club is not put at risk engaging is a complex construction project. By simplifying the design and having more straightforward construction methods, the chances of a cost-overrun are reduced in probability, and in scale.

What has changed? (in no particular order)
The capacity has been reduced: from 20,000 to either i) "17,500" (planning app), or ii) "17,250" (press release) or iii) "around 17,250" (programme notes)
There is no permanent club shop within the stadium. Instead the club intend to have more pop-ups around the periphery of the stadium. I am told that the club shop loses money. This is of no surprise to me as it is staffed on non-matchdays. It also utilises space that can be better used. This makes sense to me. I doubt that on non-matchdays the shop has more than a handful of visitors - I bet a lot of days have zero takings. Having merchandise available around the stadium will probably increase turnover as it is visible and available to all sides of the stadium. Longer-term a high-street shop is not out of the question (but I can't see that happening anytime soon).
There is no "pub" within the stadium. Again, I can't get vexed over this? The Hive is a dump, it is not used by more that a few hundred people. Better quality beer and experience is available in the near-by pubs especially with Stand on the Green nearby. Beer will be available in the lounges of course, and I am sure that there will be other outlets similar to the non-Hive outlets at GP.
Premium Seats. These straddle the halfway-line on both sides of the stadium. We discussed this as a lot of D Block and New Road supporters have been season ticket holders for years in similar seats on the halfway line. More info: see "Matthew's Guarantee" below.
The Community Sports Trust are not based in the stadium. Instead they are 10 feet away in purpose-built offices and space.
The ground floor of the residential units now contain retail. These could include bars and restaurants, but no guarantees.
The stadium is now largely or wholly single-tier (sorry I can't remember, but assume "wholly"). These means that the the roof is substantially lower. I asked if the rake is higher and was shown a "before" and "after" view. The "after" view is a *marginally* higher rake. I think that maybe the club missed the opportunity to have a steeper rake and, in fact, this would have used less footprint. However the roof would have to be higher so can understand this from a cost point-of-view.
There are no club offices at the stadium. It is likely that they will not be located on the development but "nearby" (across the A4 was mentioned). That brings me onto...
Rugby. London Irish have been involved in this process. Are still on board. Will have no ownership of the stadium. BFC and Orish may share offices if it makes sense
Away fans are still in the North-East corner with a flexible allocation.
Corporate Boxes: Reduced to a handful. And one fewer than that as no doubt Matthew will use one in true Roman Abramovich style
Safe-Standing: An area has been set-aside for potential safe-standing. If approved it will be on a 1:1 basis (i.e. one seat becomes one safe-standing position). I asked if the safe-standing area could be expanded to the whole end and this will be examined.
Outside Broadcast Compound: A very large footprint has been reserved for this. Basically on the south stand side from the halfway line to the west goal line. Space for four trucks yadda yadda yadda. Previously this was in the ground floor of the North East building (which the Community Sports Trust will now occupy). Apparently the cost of cabling from there to the ground is outweighed by providing Sky/BT et al with this new space. It seems to be unused before the premiership and I know Beesotted asked if the space could otherwise be used in the interim (pub?)
Hospitality There are 3 or 4 levels of proposed packages. From "chicken in a basket" to "fine dining" (Diamond, Gold, Silver, Iron(?)). The lounges are in the south stand with a "exclusive concourse" also in the north stand straddling the halfway line.
Non Matchday Usage The Stadium will not be open on non matchdays unless it there is some event hire made (wedding, bar mitzvahs, etc.)
Food There is a single kitchen that will serve the Diamond Level of hospitality and any non-matchday hires. All other food will be brought it and heated (not unlike British Airways and some Gordon Ramsay outlets - but I suspect it won't be as good as either of those)
Future Expansion There is no future-proofing in the stadium. In order to reduce financial exposure critical items such as foundations etc will only support the original design without the capability to (for example) add an additional tier to any of the stands. Personally speaking I cannot envisage that we will ever need more substantially more than 17,500. Any extra will probably be filled with away supporters or tourists. I would rather be in a tighter stadium creating an intimidating atmosphere for the opposition with the maximum percentage of home supporters inside Susan.
Sensory Room A facility for autistic children on match days has been included in the new design.

Construction is being undertaken by the same firm that did the AMEX Stadium

Matthew's "Guarantee"
Matthew has articulated several times that those of us that are long-term Brentford supporters (however that is defined) will be able to access "Affordable" pricing in the new stadium and, hopefully, that will be in the Premiership. Given that there are Premium Seats in Lionel Road you may not have a seat in exactly the same location relative to that you have now at GP. However if you are on the halfway-line at GP then I suspect that you will be able to nab an "affordable" seat 10 years left or right of the halfway line in the North Stand. Matthew feels no such compulsion to subsidise supporters that join us later, or tourists. N.B. This isn't a "real" guarantee from Matthew, but as he's said it a few times now - I thought I would let you know the "direction of travel" on this. He speaks passionately about this subject.

And now for the important part. Sightlines etc do not include the familiar sights of the New Road and Breamar Road pillars. Apparently they have been moved into the lounges.

I've heard several objections from various people (mostly those that have been closely connected and emotionally involved in the 20k design). Most of them surround the issue of "why are we 'downsizing'", "we won't be sustainable" etc. I have tried to articulate that above. Remember that this is at least the 3rd design I have seen for Lionel Road and maybe even the 4th (I'm including the monorail one!). This is the one that is going to happen. The previous design won't happen - that has been made clear (well unless some fairy-godmother turns up with a few hundred million and really likes the idea of spending some on a 20k stadium). I would suggest that our collective energies are better spent pushing for detailed improvements to supporters experiences in the new design.

I can honestly say that having heard the feedback from BIAS and Beesotted before my visit to Smartodds that I was on the tube to Kentish Town thinking I was going to have to tell Cliff, Matthew and Nity that they are nuts and to postpone the planning submission and its associated meeting. I haven't been as closely involved as others with the old stadium. However, like others, I have spent an enormous amount of energy and time on this journey. It is only natural that we are going to get emotional.

However as I have said before: If you hadn't seen the previous design then you'd be perfectly fine with this one.

Finally I am told that images will be available in the next week or so.

These are my own personal views. Exclusively mine. Not any of the moderators, especially as they include the BIAS Chairman and a BU Board member! You may have noticed that the GPG is a pluralistic organisation. So shoot me please.

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