Its beginning to look as though we could conceivably break the 3000 season ticket barrier, if not quite this summer then for the season, and all of a sudden Kingsmeadow is looking small again… and it’ll certainly be feeling small next season. Lets not forget busting 3000 season tickets leaves little more than a thousand home tickets up for grabs on a game by game basis.That number could be improved if thoughtful fans (especially Strank Standers) return their vouchers if they can’t make it to a game. The same goes for those in the Tempest end. The fact is I’m looking to switch to the Tempest, but its likely to be oversubscribed, so I’m sweating over whether my application was submitted in time (I have to admit an element of tardiness…). Terraces are one thing, after all I don’t personally have a problem with the John Smith Stand, but a lack of seats can be a real deal breaker for some.
So I wasn’t entirely surprised to learn the club are looking to add 900 seats in the KRE next summer. The precise wording in the DT Board Meeting Minutes was as follows;
ES (Erik Samuelson) believes that, should we achieve promotion, we should begin work on a new, all seated KRE stand. The additional seats and greater capacity (116 increase) would generate more revenue and
enable us to meet the membership criteria of the Football League.
Not a great deal of detail there, although that will almost certainly follow – if not in a WHAK then an early season programme. But what facts can be extrapolated from the morsel of information we currently know? Firstly, the estimated capacity rise of a mere 116 means the new seating area will replace, rather than complement, the existing KRE terrace. Now here’s where I continue the tradition of Dons commentators discussing ground improvements despite an obvious lack of stadium design and planning knowledge, by adding my two cents to the debate.
One widely referred to factoid is the Dons will not get planning permission for any structure taller than the current Strank Stand at the KRE end (one of the reasons the RBK were keen to move the Dons to a new stadium by the allotments, as per last years development plan for Hogsmill Valley…). If you’re wondering how 900 seats would fit into such a small space (remember the location of Jack Goodchild Way would interrupt spacing those seats regularly across the byline…), the obvious answer would be to build a taller stand, with either an extremely low roof, or no roof at all.
Rebuilding the KRE would leave the John Smith Stand as the only non-Football Leagueworthy structure in the ground. Fair enough, the north end is given over to visiting supporters… I have an inkling a few visiting fans who otherwise have a soft spot for the Dons are going to change their tune after finding themselves only able to see 40% of the pitch.
Kingsmeadow will probably never rise above merely a decent lower non-league stadium in most peoples opinion but ho hum… We know the club aren’t going to do anything beyond stick a barrier along the front to increase capacity slightly by way of improving access, and who can blame them with even the merest possibility of a new stadium on the horizon.
Unless of course it becomes worth our while to carry out intermediate development work during an estimated seven-year stadium development period. Removing the JSS roof, reprofiling and adding seats or extra terracing behind is going to set us back a high six figure sum, so even if we sell out the Dons areas of the ground sixteen or seventeen times next season it might not be worthwhile adding capacity if we were only likely to get a hundred or so extra in the ground. It would take something special for additional capacity to become a priority… we would need to sell out pretty much every game and have hundreds of fans knocking the doors down on a weekly basis begging for tickets. (Even then this is back of a fag packet calculation in action, and for those wondering why I have fag packets when I supposedly gave up, I kept some of the old ones for precisely this purpose.)
The stadium issue is always going to be a little up in the air until we either hear positive news regarding a new stadium or exhaust all medium term options. The other factor we need to bear in mind is we are sharing with a club who occupied the ground before we did and hopefully will have a history well beyond our departure. By all accounts Kingstonian fans aren’t universally happy their ‘home’ end is going to be seated, and are wondering what the long-term implications of this development are going to be for a stadium that will only be required to accommodate low to medium three figure crowds on our departure. The future of Kingstonian FC might not be high on every Dons fans list of priorities, and there are huge questions over how K’s might go about buying Kingsmeadow back, but the fact is regardless of what modifications we make during our tenure, the original and moral owners of the stadium will hopefully continue playing there long after we depart.
Having grown up and lived in or around Kingston most of my life, I’ve received messages from people I went to school with saying how great it is they’ll finally be seeing League football on Kingston Road – which says quite a lot about the floating supporter in the town – but the truth is Kingsmeadow’s Football League days will be either a short-term phenomenon or (and even this will be the vast majority of Dons fans worst case scenario…) in a drastically altered form.