The New Jerusalem


A Brief Discussion on the Redevelopment of Molineux

What an emotive subject. Moving Molineux. Of course us ‘fans’ have a load of shit to occupy us most of the time. Work, kids, inebriation, life in general really. How do we deal with all the shit? How do we pick through the fog and mist of ‘suit speak’? I don’t really know…but I’m going to have a crack. The greatest thing about being a football fan is that you get to bump into people that are skilled in all areas of this thing we call life. Want your carpets cleaned. I know a bloke. Want some funky sticker graphics? Same. Want to know how to build a state of the art football stadium? Yeah, I know somebody. So I fling a few mails about, make some calls, get my ear burned off from phone radiation.

So what are the stinky facts? Lets  delve into Suit world and have a look shall we? Come with me for a bit…

What point are Fosun at? Where have they got with their plans? It’s foggy. Everybody is wearing tight suits and have got IMacs and techno shizz. They are using big words I hardly understand…what the fuck is a ‘control option’ ? What is all this stuff about Architects and construction madness to a simple doughnut from Wednesfield? Where are we at the moment?

Essentially Fosun will have commissioned and been presented with a series of Control Options for the New Ground. Let’s  use this term ‘new ground’, as this will include a range of plans and designs, some based on staying in the vicinity of the existing ground, on top of the existing ground and on a potential brown field site(s).

It is worth recalling at this point that Sir Jack and Jonathon Hayward undertook a similar exercise when redeveloping Molineux and the race course was muted as a potential site. This appeared in the public domain at the time and it’s generally accepted that Sir Jack himself said no. Similarly there were discussions at the time over capacity. So this whole New Jerusalem thing has been mooted a few times in the past and then quickly brushed under the settee for some time in the future.

I see that. Dunstall has some history and it also has a rail spur that serves Dunstall Sidings. Fans can be moved rapidly into the stadium and back out. It would be a captive site meaning we have to spend our money there as it has the canal to its North West. Railway to the North East and Whitmore Reans to the South. You can’t really move around well. So basically the Hotel and Casino/shops/restaurants/fast food shops etc could be crammed onto the site without much hassle, it’s huge man, the whole site. Probably, at some point in the past Wolves may even have played a match or two there in silent movie times when everybody walked fast.

The aforementioned Control Options will have been reviewed and the preferred choices would then have further work done on them. The work could be programming, costing, outline design and the phasing of a build – how you would build it around a live environment? It’s a bloody complex subject for sure. We could perhaps whisper that this is the stage Fosun are at and consulting on and considering. Each option would be weighted for a myriad of considerations unique to each option. Primarily, the guess is the revenue or loss of it that the redevelopment would mean (as stands were demolished and rebuilt) is a major factor. The Algorithms are on the march, the dudes with those little measuring wheel things in safety kit, clipboards and furrowed brows will be doing their thing. But less people in the ground?

Less crowd means we would start to lose money straight away. That would be pretty crap for sure. But it’s an investment. Risky. Plus the demand for tickets would go through the roof. The logistics would make your head spin I bet. Safety of existing support within the stadium. Road closures. Tendering. All that madness has to be put into some weird large report for some poor bastard to look through. But what’s the general groove about building in situ. What’s the nitty gritty shizz we have to contend with if ‘we’ are pretending at this moment to build a new stadium?

Molineux as a site is greatly hampered on two sides by infrastructure and neighbours. They don’t own the land and consideration of what the expansion would mean in practical terms for said neighbours would be a factor against the redevelopment option.
The Jeff Shi announcement is a timely and interesting pointer to where they are in the decision making process. Though there is nothing on the Councils Planning Portal that formal Pre Application advice is being sought, it clearly is. There may well be conversations taking place with Officers and Members and is it something in these that has prompted Shi to put it there? Yes, I suppose, in simple terms, but recall the many factors that go into the process on settling on a final option. Basically Fosuns proposal is in the broader discussion to double the size physically and capacity wise the size of Molineux. On the existing site with all its constraints. Eek.

So Fosun are quite prepared to enter the legal Dragons nest that building in situ would bring. That means Mr Singh and Barny Crackhead who have lived on the Waterloo road all their lives are a bit miffed. Of course they will moan and legally groan at the whole show. Throw in potential road re-routes and Council angst and you have a machine you could get tangled in rapidly if you ay careful. It’s not time for Morgan-esque bullying tactics but a soft ‘hand that feeds’ approach. Basically Jeffs announcement is telling us that the plans to build on the Molineux site are ongoing, kicking off, getting a bit serious. But how do we extrapolate the need to build in situ with the problems of existing infrastructure? I mean the roads, transport networks, paths, subways, bridges? Have we moved on from the ‘Disaster’ led narrative of stadium architecture in the last twenty years or so…

People forget that disaster has driven ground re development up until quite recently – Fire at Bradford and the Hillsborough disaster. Seated stadiums, big evacuation plans, and recently Anti-Terrorist plans and architecture. The important factor is that grounds (today) that remained on their existing sites always had large capacity, but it was made of standing capacity – Old Trafford, Anfield and Elland Road. The only exception was St James’s Park Newcastle. Those teams have argued successfully that the infrastructure was there to cope. The expansion of the grounds put no more strain or capacity on those networks. All other major ground redevelopments have gone to brown field sites for this reason. Coming back to Molineux there is a Planning precedent as the North Bank was redeveloped but some of the crowd figures quoted as the final figure for the Morgan/Moxley scheme is hard to understand. Was 40k the final figure  on the complete scheme?

So what are the specifics of the pre-planning? How the fuck do you even start something like this? Write an email, do a report? Have a look around the stadium and point?

On the specifics of the Molineux Redevelopment let’s list the following factors as reasons to stay:

  • No Land Purchase Costs if it can be sited on the existing ground
  • Risk of Planning on a new site
  • Precedence for expansion after the North Bank Redevelopment
  • Existing Infrastructure
  • History
  • Location
  • Existing Capacity albeit limited

Reasons not to remain:

  • Limited foot print of land available
  • Loss of capacity during redevelopment
  • Loss of revenue
  • Objections from Planning Process
  • Infrastructure limited
  • Location
  • Development around Molineux and the constraints it puts on the site

Reasons to move:

  • Infrastructure
  • Could be built whilst using Molineux
  • Purpose Built for the Capacity – Design to Expand
  • Sites are available

Cons of moving:

  • Land purchase costs
  • Planning Risks
  • Infrastructure Costs
  • Fans reaction

To be honest its impossible for fans to remain objective on the subject but I don’t believe Jedi Jeff would put something in the public domain that firstly if they weren’t seriously considering it, but secondly had viable merit as an option with all they have found out as the process has moved on.

It’s a crazy thing Ladies and Gentlemen. Of course as fans we deserve a little bit of attention, I mean we have been going to Molineux for a long time. I think this whole ‘fog of war’ thing is a bit daft to be getting embroiled in really. Especially as we have Everton sludging down the Stafford Road next Saturday. There are new players to bed in, new tactics, new Nuno ideas to look at and be amazed. But we can put the above points somewhere safe so we have an idea what to say when at last somebody looks out of their window at Molineux and realises that the baying crowd outside might need somebody to come out and explain in simple terms what’s going on. At least we will be able to have some idea of the major points if somebody does actually ask us our opinions.

3 thoughts on “The New Jerusalem

  1. Just seen you on Midlands to day Mikey, what a dapper suit. Thirty thousand copies couldn’t happen to a more deserving soul, concratulations and enjoy.

  2. Hi Mikey,

    As another simple Wednesfield lad (Long Knowle Est) I recall the heady days of the late ’60’s and the 70’s and, apart from a few exceptions, we generally had crowds of about 30-35,000. There was the occasional large crowd (Shit and Man Ure in 1967, That epic game against dirty Leeds in 1972) but we have never been a 55-60,000 capacity club. I know that times are changing and there is always the possibility that Fosun will be the pied piper that will draw in unheard of crowds but my thought is that a stadium that holds 40 – 45,000 would be more than ample and this is achievable on the current site. Keep up the great work – I love reading your stuff! OODCL