The year of 2009 has certainly been the year where the club's Stadium Redevelopment plans have fallen almost silent. Perhaps sensibly so - as crowds at Huish Park have continued to dip, with numerous gates of under 4,000 over the past 12 months, talk of a 14,000 capacity stadium would appear questionable, and certainly from the point of view of whether it really is the club's number one priority.
Having had a couple of years worth of 'imminent announcements' and such-like concerning the club's stadium enhancements, and two sets of architects plans being submitted to the Council for approval with respect to a supporters bar that has never gone beyond the pencil and paper stage, the last update we can recall was in the February 2009 ABUFP meeting, where the club were hoping that the stadium plans would become known by Easter.
With Christmas, rather than Easter, being now upon us, this week's Western Gazette has popped the question again and there is little information forthcoming as to what the hold-ups are and what fans' expectations should be. Chief Executive Martyn Starnes has told the paper:
"It is a difficult issue and we cannot really go into as much detail as we would like about what is going on, but the chairman is working very hard to move on the process. He remains as determined and the board are as determined as ever to improve the facilities here and to help us to maximise the benefits of this site to the football team."
Many local councils around the country regard their local football club as a community hub encouraging social inclusion and so tend to act in partnership with the relevant club. Generally South Somerset Council have operated at arm's length, however the Gazette have contacted Steve Joel, who is the council's director for Health and Well-Being (an odd spokesman for what is a planning issue for a leisure company). He told the paper:
"The council is continuing to work closely with the club, inputting key advice to assist them in overcoming the challenges they face in delivering their aspiration to develop their stadium and improve their training pitch provision which, if successful, will undoubtedly provide a much-enhanced sports package for the area."
All in all, once the quotes from both parties are picked apart, there is little in the way of concrete change. The Gazette still speaks of a 14,000 capacity stadium, although as GWSC representative Paul Hadlow states: "The capacity of Huish Park at the moment is about right." The club really need to focus in on the smaller things that cause supporters grief - the windy and wet marquee, the puddles and potholes in the car park, and the quality of the teabars - and get those sorted. Whilst continuing to concentrate on large-scale grandoise plans, it's far too easy to forget to improve the facilities that are already there. Whilst crowds at Huish Park show no sign of recovery, anything above the current 9,500 capacity becomes increasingly unnecessary.
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