City to expand Eastlands capacity to 60,000?

According to The Guardian’s Daniel Taylor, the club have been looking at expanding the capacity of Eastlands to 60,000 with a new training ground alongside the stadium. There would also be development of the surrounding land to create a sports village. The article claims the plans are at an early stage and have yet to be discussed with Manchester City Council.

This news may not be as startling as it initially sounds. When ADUG took over the club there was initial speculation they may look at developing the ground and surrounding area. A good offer to the Council, with whom City have always enjoyed a decent relationship, is unlikely to be turned down. Afterall it’s not like they could rent a 48,000 seat stadium to anyone else. Giving a cash injection to the Council that could be reinvested on other services would show them as having managed this particular legacy of the Commonwealth Games very well.

Geographically there is comfortably room for developing the ground on three sides with just the South Stand being close to Ashton New Road. The other parts of the article regarding the training ground and sports village make less sense. There is a decent amount of space around the City of  Manchester Stadium, but I’m not sure there’s enough for the multiple training pitches and other facilities that would be needed to surpass what we currently have at Carrington. The benefits are unclear especially given the recent overhaul of facilities there and the fact it’s more accessible on a daily basis for our mostly Cheshire based players and staff.

The sports village has long been under way with the velodrome, athletics track and squash centre. These would seem to be best left to the Council to develop as part of the overall regeneration of East Manchester. There seems little logic in City getting involved with other sports.

With regard to filling a 60,000 capacity stadium, I believe this is attainable if we were to be challenging for the Premier League and Champions League on a regular basis. Arsenal are filling the 60,000 Emirates stadium having moved up from 38,000 Highbury and many of their season tickets are priced over £1000. I doubt sufficient football supporters in the North would pay these ‘London prices’ but in terms of bums on seats there’s no shortage of people interested in attending top quality football. Manchester has a good catchment area in Cheshire (home to many City fans already) and the ever expanding Warrington. The location of Eastlands is more accessible for people East of Manchester than Maine Road, and when the tram line is finally built it will be easier to access from Piccadilly Station.

Such major changes and blatant seeking of new fans may not play well with all of our traditional supporters. It’s true that we would be losing touch with some of our roots despite the continued investment in City In The Community, etc. The shared experiences many of us have of Maine Road and life outside the top flight would seem a world away. One fears for Colin Shindler‘s mental health given the trauma he’s already been through with ‘this Abu Dhabi lot’.

Personally I feel incredibly lucky to be watching some of the world’s finest players each week, and if more City fans are able to share that with me then I’m all for it. In fact I’d say if we really are to be challenging for the European Cup on a regular basis, then I’d be looking to add more than 12,000 to the current stadium. I’d go for a 65,000 capacity at least!

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