Newcastle United plan stadium expansion amid unprecedented ticket demand
An expansion of St James’s Park is on the agenda at Newcastle United, according to Darren Eales.
Demand for tickets has exceeded supply since the club was taken over last year, and tens of thousands of fans queued online in the summer when Newcastle put 1,000 new season-tickets on sale.
Co-owner Mehrdad Ghodoussi revealed his keenness to see the stadium expanded beyond its 52,305 capacity earlier this year.
However, former owner Mike Ashley’s controversial sale of a parcel of land behind the Gallowgate End, and the subsequent approval of a proposed £120million development by planners at Newcastle City Council, has limited the scope for expansion, though work has not yet started on Strawberry Place.
United chief executive officer Darren Eales has addressed the issue of increasing the capacity of the stadium, hemmed in on one side by the listed Leazes Terrace, amid unprecedented demand for tickets.
“It’s one of the areas we’re looking at,” said Eales, who joined the club from Atlanta United in the summer. “It’s a champagne problem, because we’re sold out – and it’s not a situation like the past where you’re almost giving away season tickets to fill the stadium."
The club’s owners – and Eales – do not want to move from the present site at the heart of the city.
"It’s an amazing location,” said Eales. “I love the fact we’re here in the city with 108 pubs within half a mile. It’s the best ground to come to for away supporters in my view because of its location and atmosphere.
“The reality is, we are in a situation where we’re limited in capacity. We’ll obviously be looking at if there are ways we can flex that. That’s one of the things we will be looking at over time.”
Before Ashley bought United in 2007, the club unveiled plans to develop land around St James’s Park and increase the stadium's capacity to 60,000.
Speaking at the time, then-chairman Freddy Shepherd said: "What we’re proposing is something not just for the club, but for the whole city and the people of Newcastle. The whole project will stand as a monument to vibrant development of the city.”
However, the ambitious £300million proposal would be overtaken by events – as Ashley soon started buying up shares in the club.