Newcastle United chief comments on St James’ Park expansion amid ticket dilemma
Newcastle United CEO Darren Eales has commented on a St James’ Park expansion amid unprecedented demand for tickets and the introduction of a ballot system.
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Newcastle’s owners have made no secret of their intention to expand St James’ Park beyond its current 52,305 capacity. Co-owner Mehrdad Ghodoussi has gone on the record stating he wants the stadium’s capacity increased to at least 60,000 while the club has bought back the land at Strawberry Place from developers, renewing hope of a Gallowgate End expansion.
But the stadium’s capacity will actually be reduced ever so slightly for the 2023-24 campaign as the club prepares to compete in the Champions League for the first time. As a result of playing in Europe’s elite club competition, an addition corporate seating area has been installed at the Leazes End, with fewer seats than the removed standard seating area.
With tickets in such high demand and the club on an upward trajectory, the need for a stadium expansion will continue to intensify.
Newcastle United’s St James’ Park ‘conundrum’
Newcastle CEO Darren Eales recognised the issue during a fan event in Philadelphia, discussing an ‘ideal scenario’.
“We’ve got a conundrum,” Eales said. “There’s 52,500. We could have loads more in the building so we want to look and see what we can do to develop it.
“It is in a special place so the ideal scenario would be to try and look at ways we could develop it to let more people in so they could see the team.”
But any plans to expand St James’ Park are only at the very early stages as various options and avenues are explored.
A potential East Stand expansion
The East Stand has often been viewed as a sticking point when it comes to expanding St James’ Park due to the Grade I listed buildings on Leazes Terrace and the Grade II listed buildings on St James’ Terrace. A ‘right to light’ and the close proximity between the buildings and the East Stand prevents any conventional expansion, however options are still being explored.
According to a report in The Times, constructing a new, larger East Stand is ‘under serious discussion’. ‘Advancements in engineering an architecture’ could see the dated 1970s-built stand replaced by a modern structure with more glasswork to allow light to pass through to Leazes Terrace.
An East Stand expansion along with the Gallowgate Stand could increase St James’ Park’s capacity to around 62,000.
St James’ Park fan zone
In the meantime, the Strawberry Place land purchased by the club earlier this year will be used to create a fan zone in partnership with new shirt sponsor Sela.
Eales previously commented: “We’ll work closely on the design and operation of a new fan zone area at St James’ Park, taking inspiration from Sela’s incredible properties elsewhere.”
Divisive Newcastle United ticketing plans for the 2023-24 season
The Newcastle membership, priced at £37 per-season for adults, grants ‘priority’ access to tickets for home matches at St James’ Park. However, members will not be guaranteed a ticket, instead they will be entered into a ballot and informed if they were able to secure a ticket.
This replaces the virtual queue system that was in place for matches in previous seasons and is a similar process to the club’s Carabao Cup final ticketing system for Wembley Stadium last season.
While some supporters have praised the new system as ‘fair’, others have criticised the club’s decision to charge £37 to be entered into a ‘lottery’ in an attempt to get tickets.
Newcastle 2023-24 memberships go on sale from 10am on Wednesday, July 26 and can be purchased at book.nufc.co.uk.