UK Property Forums consultant Hugh Blaza attended the first exhibition about the proposed new stadium for Oxford United at Kidlington on Monday, October 9. He came away on a note of cautious optimism that this long-awaited move is making progress.

It’s a long time since I gave up wondering when they were going to finish building the Kassam Stadium.

Open at one end, and looking as though a strong gust of wind might lift the whole thing off the ground, it always gave the impression of being a temporary measure. And now the club’s days on Grenoble Road are indeed numbered; the lease of the site expires in three years’ time and it’s time to move on.

And so to the first public exhibition at the Stratfield Brake sports pavilion just outside Kidlington,­ to view the site and some details of Oxford United’s plans for a new stadium (see gallery below).

A video can be seen at the stadium website.

Well that certainly looks a bit more like it! As the U’s have risen through the rankings, it’s not just the expiry of Kassam which justifies something a little more, shall we say, fitting. A triangle of Green Belt land adjacent to the Brake’s existing sports facilities belonging to Oxfordshire County Council has been approved by the owners as the site for the new stadium.

The designs have been prepared by AFL, architects for the successful Brentford Community Stadium, and they’re clearly seeking to replicate the success of that model in Oxford.

The plans for the new stadium are ambitious, including:

  • A 180 bed hotel, restaurant and café
  • Community spaces for meetings, educational activities and charity events
  • Health and wellbeing facilities
  • Hospitality spaces for matchday and non-matchday conferencing and events
  • Outdoor community and multi-functional plaza
  • Club retail shop

Already served by Oxford Parkway railway station, travelling to and from matches will be a breeze compared with fans’ overwhelming reliance on cars to get them to Kassam.

The new ground will also provide backup facilities to enhance and look after the Brake’s existing rugby and cricket ground and 320 new full-time jobs.

It’s well noted that a successful football club enhances the economy of the town to which it belongs and the site of the new stadium is sufficiently close to the city of Oxford for the benefits to be felt.

As with much significant new development, the club’s plans will ensure that the green credentials for the site are uppermost in the development, incorporating energy efficient power supplies, zero plastic, local procurement of food and encouraging the use of public transport.

Next stop on the journey is the planning application and consultations with the local community, some of whose members may not be quite as enthusiastic about the sacrifice of green fields in favour of a football stadium.

But the site and the proposal seem to make sense. Pride in the team and pride in the place, not to mention how it is served and operated.

Nobody’s saying ‘back of the net’ just yet, because there’s work to do. But there’s a logic to the build-up and benefits which will flow from the stadium should it come to pass. It’s a long way from Kassam…

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