There’s been a lot of talk about a feasibility study on SJP, but what does that mean? A feasibility study is typically the first step in a project and would be carried out for projects that fall into one, or more, of the following categories: 1) complex, 2) are of significant size, 3) likely to objectionable by nearby residents / building owners or the general public and 4) scepticism exists as to whether the project is achievable or not. Our beloved SJP falls into all four of these categories.
The output of a feasibility study would typically be a report that would include:
- Identifying options – In our case this would be stand by stand, what is possible. There may be multiple options for each stand or none at all.
- Define the viability of those options – How real is it that this option could be achieved.
- Consultations with key regulatory bodies and possibly other key stakeholder groups. This may include informal conversations with local authority planning and building regulatory bodies.
Ultimately, the actual work that will be carried out depends on what the client has asked for. The Royal British Institute of Architects (RIBA) call this a brief. The brief that has been disclosed for the SJP expansion feasibility study hasn’t been fully shared publicly. Reports indicate that it focuses on the expansion of SJP and not a relocation. Music to our ears.
On the feasibility study Darren Eales has said, “everybody is sort of an amateur architect on what you can do to SJP”. He’s correct on that point. Being honest, that’s what I’ve been doing with the articles that I’ve written for True Faith. But with the added advantage that I have led the delivery of major construction projects in the UK. He’s also correct when he said, “The reality is we need some experts to come in with no preconceptions, look at it and actually give us some feedback”.
Having been involved in feasibility studies before for clients this approach is really good news. It shows a willingness to extend SJP as the cost of this study will not be small. Its, difficult to say how much as it depends on the depth of the ‘give us some feedback’ brief. It could be £100k, it could be £1m or even more. Totally dependent on what the club have asked for in the brief.
The recent announcement that SJP will be a host stadium for Euro 2028 has brought questions about if SJP can be expanded before then. It is theoretically possible but by how much and how realistic it is, is something totally different. It is almost certain that an expansion of the East Stand, by Euro 2028, is not possible as there are too many factors to consider.
The Gallowgate, however, is something that could be possible to expand by Euro 2028 but it would be a challenge.
I’ve previously estimated that a Gallowgate expansion would add about 8,000–10,000 seats with8,000 being more realistic, taking us to 60,000. However, as a comparison Anfield’s Anfield Road stand is only adding 7,000 to their capacity so that may be a more realistic number to expect from a Gallowgate expansion.
The challenge with any stand expansion is when to take the roof off the existing stand to join the two stands together. It’s not a short duration activity so it’s often done during a pre-season. My guess would be the latest you could do that would be before the start of the 2027/28 season to have a bigger capacity for then. This doesn’t leave a lot of time.
Something to consider is that the Stack at St James’ has been awarded a temporary planning permission for only three years. Does three years give an indication of when the club anticipate starting the expansion? We can only guess unfortunately but it’s not uncommon that temp durations are agreed with the council for entertainment venues like this. It also doesn’t mean that it won’t be renewed after the three years.
Generally, an expansion of a stand on the scale the of the Gallowgate would take two to three years on site. This is generally comparable with the stand expansions we have seen at Anfield, and other grounds, that were planned at about two years. In addition, I’d estimate that you’d need two years before that to take it from feasibility study to being table to start.
That time would be needed to gain planning permission and designing the structural elements to satisfy Nexus that the foundation work won’t cause damage to the Metro station and track. Let’s not forget the club only have a lease for the land, Nexus are the freeholder and they’d need to give permission before the expansion can start.
Personally, as much as its theoretically possibly to have an expansion prior to the Euro’s I think it would be more likely that work is either on going or start afterwards but it’s not impossible.
A final point is that we aren’t privy to the agreement to be a host stadium. It could be that we have had to agree there will be no construction works ongoing. I can’t see the club having agreed to an expanded stadium as there are too many variables at this stage in the project.
Whatever happens I hope a summary of the feasibility study is shared so the fans can see what has been considered, dismissed, chosen, and why.
Stephen Hodgson @StephenNUFC1892