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Ashton: Never a Perfect Time to Rebuild a Stand
Friday, 8th Dec 2023 15:34

Town CEO Mark Ashton has revealed that it’s possible that the club could look to start building the new Cobbold Stand behind the existing structure.

The Cobbold Stand is now more than 50 years old and there were plans to replace it with a new structure following the rebuilding of the two end stands in the early 2000s. However, relegation from the Premier League and resultant administration put paid to the project.

Since the takeover in 2021 and with attendances now close to a sell-out on a weekly basis, the matter has returned to the agenda, although with Ashton keen to point out at Monday’s PLC AGM that it is currently a “long-term… not a short or medium-term plan”.

Asked about the thinking regarding the Cobbold Stand on Life’s a Pitch TV, Ashton said: “I met with the CEO of the council again yesterday [Wednesday]. They’ve been fantastically supportive.

“We’re working with them on a masterplanning exercise for the land around the stadium because we are going to need some land to expand back [behind the existing Cobbold Stand with the council the owners of the car park].

“We’re looking at the land behind the [Sir Alf Ramsey] Stand that we’ve now acquired and how we best use that. Their plans for the town centre, their plans for the access and egress.

“It all has to work because you don’t want to build a white elephant and what you can’t do is build a modern stand that simply operates 25 or 26 times a season, it just doesn’t financially work.

“So, in essence, the replacement of the Cobbold would turn us around because at the moment we’ve got our back to the town.

“We’re looking for facilities in that would operate, whether that’s conference banqueting, whether that’s exhibition.

“We’re an hour from London, we’re a couple of hundred yards from the station, we’re a town centre football club. There are a number of things that we could put into that stand that would drive revenue on a non-matchday basis, which is vitally important to us because it ups our revenue, improves our Financial Fair Play position and means we can spent more on players. So it all has to work.

“The timing is key. Back at West Brom, we took down the old Rainbow Stand, which bizarrely is a replica of the Cobbold Stand, and built the East Stand. The stand was down for 18 months.

“If you look at Fulham, they’ve taken their main stand down, it’s really difficult. But we’ve got architects in place, who are absolute professionals and one of the things we are looking at whether it’s cost-effective to build a scheme where you part-build behind and then fill in the front. We’re not that far on but we are looking at it.

“There’s never a perfect time. But we want to get the plans in place, we want to get the planning permissions in place and be in a position to go when we see fit, so we’re down the road on that.”

Ashton regularly referenced the club’s history and traditions during his Life’s a Pitch TV appearance and was asked whether a museum would be among the club’s plans.

“It has to be, but it’s where,” he said. “For example, the boardroom is filled with amazing memorabilia. But it’s the wrong place. Why? Because in the boardroom not enough people see it.

“We’re actually looking at whether it goes around the football club. We’re looking at developments with the council around the stadium, at other buildings which may go up where it’s on display to a wider part of the community, and I think that’s what we need.

“The children in the schools need to be able to come in and see it and understand it. It’s too locked up at the moment.

“One hundred per cent it’s something we have to do, but we want to get it in a place where more people can see it.”

Photo: Matchday Images

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Westy added 16:45 - Dec 8
Exciting to see how this will pan out. I remember a time when Portman Road, although never the biggest, was, for a period, regarded as the best kept stadium in English football, including the pitch. The groundsman at the time was even offered the job at Wembley but declined. Great to see the investment and the pride coming back. The Magnus Stand (or whatever it is called now) is only ten years more recent than the Cobbold Stand and could benefit from improvement. Easy to spend other people's money I know and without putting a timescale to it, it would be very possible to remove the cladding, cut back the steels to remove obstructed views, have a canterlever roof lined up with the stands behinfld the goals, reconfigure the corner where the players come out and sweep the top tier round and take the opportunity to construct some lift shafts at the back of the stand (plenty of room to do that). It would not require too much alteration to the existing concrete structure and would on its own, rebuilding to the Cobbold Stand aside, increase capacity. A pipe dream perhaps at the moment and some distance away if ever but would, if ever carried out, would make Portman Road a top class stadium

davidsc1971 added 21:26 - Dec 8
I'd never considered the Cobbold as the main stand but it does make a lot of sense. Extra facilities and a permanent fanzone area for match days etc all facing the Town would work really well. And an outside chance of some legroom too, it really is a squeeze in there

BrockleyBlue78 added 23:26 - Dec 8
Love it, we’re in good hands.

bobble added 07:33 - Dec 9
during a pandemic is the perfect time

Pilgrimblue added 10:18 - Dec 9
So when is that!!,

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