South Shields Football Club bosses are celebrating attaining their most immediate goal – winning planning permission to improve their ground.
They have been granted the go-ahead to install new floodlighting and covered stands as part of modernisation ambitions for Mariners Park.
Work will start straight away on fitting two pre-built tiered stands behind the goal between the match-day grass pitch and the 3G training surface.
But the installation of a new 20m-high floodlight at each corner of the pitch has been put on hold until they can be incorporated into longer-term expansion designs.
Club chiefs say the lights’ location must be precisely mapped to account for a possible future new stand on the Shaftesbury Avenue side of the ground.
In winning permission, the club also had to heed warnings from travel operator Nexus that the floodlights do not impede Metro drivers’ vision.
With tracks running close to the stadium, Nexus had requested their location and colour must not give rise to potential confusion with signalling.
Keith Finnigan, the club’s managing director, said the success of the planning bid was an indication of progress being made behind the scenes as well as on the pitch.
He added: “We are delighted to have received planning permission for the floodlights and the stands – they are the next step in our development.
“We want our supporters to enjoy the experience of coming to games, and these new additions to the ground will help achieve that.
“The lights will be put in place when we know their exact best location – we want to ensure they do not impinge on any future plans for the ground.
“They may be put up at the close of this season or the next.”
The stands will not add to capacity but will bring a greater level of matchday comfort to some of the 2,900 supporters permitted into the ground.
They are similar in design to three already in place along the Shaftsbury Avenue, and each can hold up to 150 standing spectators and be adapted for seating.
As well as improving the spectator viewing experience, they will help the club meet facilities guidelines laid down by the Football Association.
The club has undergone a rapid uplift in fortunes since businessman Geoff Thompson became owner and chairman three years ago.
Struggling to attract a sizeable following, it had been forced to rent a ground, 15 miles away in Peterlee, Co Durham.
Last season, South Shields won the FA Vase in a final at Wembley Stadium and promotion to the Evo-Stik First Division North, where they are currently top.