Image: Wikimedia Commons / Gloworm 44
Image: Wikimedia Commons / Gloworm 44

Blue sky thinking explains Coventry City’s stadium plans

Coventry City and the University of Warwick have announced a partnership that would see the club build a new stadium on land provided by the University. Zarah Sultana, the MP for Coventry South, has expressed her support for the project, suggesting that the proposed stadium “could provide a real boost to the club and the city.”

In a joint statement, it was announced that the development would be positioned on the University of Warwick’s “agricultural field area”, although an exact location is yet to be confirmed.

It is understood that the Sky Blues hope to construct a 20,000-seater stadium, with the potential to expand its capacity to around 30,000.

Both parties are committed to “environmentally friendly” building practises

Coventry “will own and be entirely responsible for the cost of the stadium,” as a result, City will retain matchday revenues generated at the Club’s new stadium.

The joint statement also indicates that the proposed stadium could be included in the Coventry Very Light Rail project. For now, the CVLR project remains in the research and development phase.

Both parties are committed to “environmentally friendly” building practises, and seek to create a “visionary” stadium for the future.

Analysis and Reaction, by Luke James.

Since departing Highfield Road in 2005, the Sky Blues have twice been forced to vacate the Ricoh Arena due to rent and legal disputes with Arena Coventry Limited (ACL) and Wasps RFU. In fact, few clubs have experienced a more tumultuous start to the 21st century than Coventry City.

The Ricoh Arena was initially expected to be a state-of-the-art facility, featuring a retractable pitch and roof. The FA’s failure to win the right to host the 2006 World Cup doused those hopes, resulting in a drastic downscaling ahead of Coventry’s Highfield Road departure.

The announcement of Coventry’s partnership was greeted with open arms by supporters

Owned by London-based hedge fund Sisu, Coventry’s recent history is as volatile as it gets. Following the team’s promotion to the Championship, the announcement of Coventry’s partnership was – predominantly – greeted with open arms by supporters.

Politically, sportingly, and economically – however – there remains a myriad of things to contend with before entering a spiral of optimism or negativity.

It would be hugely beneficial for the Club to own its own stadium. For the first time since 2005, City would get to pocket matchday revenues, an income stream that could help to improve the quality of players the Sky Blues are able to recruit.

A state-of-the-art 20,000-seater stadium isn’t bad real estate to own

Constructing a new stadium to rival the exploits of MK Dons would also be a feather in the cap for Sisu. A state-of-the-art, environmentally-conscious 20,000-seater stadium isn’t a bad piece of real estate to own. Especially if said stadium was to back onto the grounds of a world-class university.

For Coventry City, this deal seems like a no-brainer. With the Club expected to sink £100 million into the project, the construction of a campus arena would be the ultimate palate cleanser for a board that remains savagely unpopular among City supporters.

The situation is more complex for the University. Though the joint statement equivocally states that Coventry – not Warwick – will be responsible for the costs of the stadium, students have major concerns about the proposals.

The stadium’s success will hinge upon the construction of the CVLR

The University is yet to answer how it would cope with the additional footfall caused by the Sky Blues’ “agricultural field area” arrival. Likewise, the exact location of the stadium is yet to be decided.

The description offered in the joint statement suggests that the stadium could be positioned south of Westwood Heath Road. If that is the case, the stadium is likely to be built to the west of campus, beyond the Sport and Wellness Hub.

The stadium’s success will hinge upon the construction of the much-discussed CVLR. If supporters arrive en masse at the Bus Interchange, students would be forgiven for asking why their campus environment was changed beyond recognition.

Will The Dirty Duck be crammed with Coventry supporters every-other Saturday? That will very much depend upon where the stadium is built, and if amenities are installed on its doorstep. It is essential that public transport takes supporters directly to the stadium; not to the heart of campus.

Current Warwick students probably won’t be inconvenienced by the stadium, but the next crop might be.

Duck the Wasps; Duck Sisu; Duck the Council and the Villa too…

Of course, the most bewildering piece of this Ricoh Arena-sized puzzle is Coventry City Council. Throughout the 2018/19 season, a certain song grew increasingly popular with Sky Blues fans; it goes something like this:

“Duck the Wasps; Duck Sisu; Duck the Council and the Villa too…”

NB: “Duck” isn’t included in the authentic version of the chant.

Ultimately, CCC are incredibly unpopular among Coventry’s fanbase. Blamed for mismanaging the row that led City to leave the city twice in a decade, the Council could now have a situation where it has two large stadiums within its jurisdiction.

Does Coventry need a 20,000-seat campus stadium and the Ricoh Arena?

Decision-makers in Toronto were left aghast when the Maple Leafs and Raptors both launched plans to build their own arenas in the early 2000s. The Mayor’s Office realised that the GTA didn’t need two competing venues, and quickly sought to create a marriage between the city’s NBA and NHL franchises.

It worked, take a look at the Scotiabank Arena.

Does Coventry – with its population of around 350,000 – need a 20,000-seat campus stadium and the 32,609-capacity Ricoh Arena? It obviously doesn’t.

If you have reservations about the proposals, don’t lose your mind yet. With so many moving parts at play, there are a million pitfalls that could derail the proposals. That said, the construction of a campus stadium would bring investment to the University and surrounding areas. It also makes sense for the Club. This could actually happen.

The announcement is a statement of intent on the part of Coventry City and the University of Warwick. Ground has not been broken, nor exchanged. Planning permission hasn’t been granted. There is a long way to go, and a lot of hand-wringing to be done.

The Boar Sport Podcast – EP7: Coventry City and the University of Warwick announce stadium plans… what now?

Reaction: Sky Blues announce stadium plans

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