SBC: We’re still on track for Weaponness

Bishop Auckland FC's new ground, built in 2010, is a model that SBC will use when building the proposed 2,000 capacity stadium at Weaponness
Bishop Auckland FC's new ground, built in 2010, is a model that SBC will use when building the proposed 2,000 capacity stadium at Weaponness
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Scarborough Borough Council is still aiming to provide a football stadium at Weaponness in time for the 2014/15 season.

that they’re now in a position to accept final tenders and are hopeful to ‘break ground’ on site by the end of 2013.

Council leader Tom Fox said: “Cabinet met last month and is happy with the progress that has been made so far, and, contrary to some reports in the media and on social media, it’s still our intention to have the facilities that would allow senior football to return to the town for the 2014/15 season, along with sporting facilities for the whole borough.

“That has been the publicly-stated aim from the very start of this project.”

Chris Bourne, Project manager at SBC, admits he is frustrated at not being able to tell the public the finite details of the project until now, but he insists the council must get it right and that takes time.

He said: “At the moment we are in a very good place.

“Once you get tenders you get solutions and then you can invite final tenders. There is no room for what I would call ‘post tender negotiation’.

“You get a bid and that is what the bid is. It’s upto you to accept it or reject it. There is no room to say that you might have liked this or you might have liked that.

“This is why it is so difficult and why it has taken much of this year, going through the small details with the bidders to make sure we get this right

“It has been as frustrating for me as it has for the members of the public as I am very restricted as to what I can say about these bids and the content of them.

“This is why it has to be done behind closed doors with genuine competition.

“I know members of the public want to know what is going on and we tell them what we can, but we are limited in what we can say until is finalised.”

Bourne is still optimistic that the 2,000 capacity stadium will be ready for the 2014/15 season, insisting it is a possibility that construction could begin by the end of 2013.

He added: “The stage where I am at now is that I took it to members in January and they have agreed to accept final tenders so what I need to do now is write a procurement document to invite those final tenders.

“I’ll look to get final tender documentation out in February or more likely March.

“I think they need two to three months to assess it all and come back to us.

“So hopefully we can get final tenders back in late May, more likely June or July.

“We’ll then look for a very quick turnaround and assessment so you could have the preferred bidder potentially sorted by the summer, August possibly.

“Once we’ve got that bidder sorted they need to get planning permission. If they get their application in for September for example, you would think that they’d get permission by the end of the year and that’s it, they can start building then.

“And if you think how long it will take to build a grade C football ground, you can probably get one up in nine months or so, and I’m hopeful we can do that as that would mean we would have it up for the start of the 2014/15 football season.

“If not then it will be delivered in 2014/15 season and we might just miss a part of the season. The statement the council is putting out is that we’re hoping to get this stadium provided for that season and that is largely been what we’ve said from the start.

“We’ve got three bidders left in the competition and I’m reasonably confident all three will submit a final bid.

“We had 12 expressions of interest from the market. From that group of 12 we invited six to take part in the detailed process and throughout that process we have lost three and are now left with three bidders.”

While Bourne admits he would have liked more time to get the project done to a timescale, he is adamant SBC can still achieve their aims of a football stadium for the 2014/15 season.

“You do your best with these things. You set a timescale and unfortunately people like me are judged on that,” he said.

“I could have come out and said five years and there would have been outcry in the town, so I’ve tried to be realistic.

“I did set myself up saying that I think we can deliver for 2014/15 season, and I still think we can do that.

“These contractors will appear on site and they will be building a football ground and sports centre, but we’ve just got to get it right and be patient.”

Contrary to some reports, the stadium at Weaponness will be owned by the council, and Bourne was quick to emphasise that clubs like Scarborough Town and Scarborough Pirates are as welcome as Scarborough Athletic to apply to play at the ground once it is built.

Bourne said: “The ground will be owned by the council. We are planning on allowing the Scarborough clubs who want to play there to do so without broad restrictions.

“If teams want to apply to play there then they will be welcome to do so.

“It is a community stadium for the community.

“I need to emphasise, it is not the home of Scarborough Athletic. All these Athletic fans who think it is their ground, you are wrong. It is a community stadium and Scarborough Ladies, Scarborough Town or Scarborough Pirates or whoever have as much right to play there as Athletic.

“Certainly though, I would think that Athletic would see themselves as the main user and I think we’d see them as the main user, but there are other clubs that will be able to use it.”

Bourne confirmed that the pitch at Weaponness will be an artificial 3G surface, explaining the financial benefits of using such a pitch.

He added: “If you want all these community clubs to play on it, you can’t do that with a grass pitch.

“I’ve been to Hull City and met their groundsman, and you will get about 35-40 games per season out of a grass pitch.

“If you go for a hybrid pitch they will do up to 70 games a season, and if you have a 3G pitch they will do a hell of a lot more.

“As long as they are maintained properly they will last a long time and gives us more frequency and added revenue options.

“The decision to build a 3G pitch makes it more viable and sustainable.

“If you read up on it, FIFA are pushing them. FIFA will allow you to play a World Cup game on an artificial pitch, but the oddity is that in this country, the FA won’t allow you to play an FA Cup match on them at the moment. It is going that way though.”