Friday 15 March 2013

Fortress Liberty: Expansion

In his debut ForzaSwansea blog post JULES PRICE takes a brief, sensible look at the exciting new plans for the desperately needed expansion of the Liberty Stadium.

It was in 2005 that Swansea City and the Ospreys moved to the Liberty Stadium, which was a typical off-the-shelf packaged modern complex, based on plans similar to Sunderland’s ground, the Stadium of Light.

With an initial capacity of 20,500, this has organically grown to 20,750 with better use of space, but now the club has announced a three-stage plan to expand the stadium, increasing the capacity to an eventual 32,000 seats. Having the second lowest stadium capacity in the Premier League after QPR’s Loftus Road, Swansea City are now anxious to take advantage of its growing popularity among local and global supporters.

An artist's impression of what the front elevation may look like.

However, the club has brought forward the first stage of its ambitious expansion programme, as the current media facilities at the stadium are not compliant for the new Sky TV/BT Sports agreement commencing in August 2013. The initial phase will involve the creation of a fourth tier in the West Stand, which will house a new media centre.

This also provides the Swans with an opportunity to house a new spectator area on the newly created level, and replace the existing media area with spectator seats. Externally, the fourth tier will not be visible, and the perfect bowl shape is still retained.

Seating inside the stadium.

A further 5000 seats are expected to be added to the East Stand in time for the 2014/15 Season, and should the Swans continue to enjoy success on the pitch, a decision will be made to increase the capacity to an eventual 32,000.

This steady, calculated approach typifies how Swansea City have conducted its business under the guidance of Huw Jenkins. The Swans will be keen to avoid the mistake made by Wolves where an ambitious expansion programme to increase their Molineux Stadium was started, only for the club to be relegated to the Championship and subsequently struggle to fill the new seating areas.

Thoughts from Chris:

The stadium desperately needs more seating. In this age where Swansea have significantly increased their support in the city and beyond (not in Cardiff) there is a constant battle for tickets. The infuriating Jack Army membership scheme starts to play its part, tickets are sold for stupid prices, fans try to get tickets in the away end... it's not what football should be about.

How refreshing it would be to just wander down to the stadium on match day and pick up a couple of tickets half hour before kick-off.

As Jules mentions, if Swansea are relegated then support may wane (though it shouldn't if everyone is the Swansea supporter they say they are...) and the half-full stadium may make Swans matches seem like Osprey's matches!

Still, it's worth the gamble. Swansea don't look likely to be relegation material in the near future and now is the time to encourage new supporters who can actually pop along to a match without having to scavenge for a ticket weeks ahead of the game.

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