Stunning Newcastle United 'community stadium' and training ground concept design explained

There was an exciting announcement at Newcastle United just over eight years ago.

Tuesday, 22nd March 2022, 12:33 pm

Speaking at the time, then-director of football Joe Kinnear said: “Top players and top teams need top training and medical facilities.

“Our current training ground has served the club very well, but the new complex will give us all of the ingredients that we need to continue maintaining and enhancing the performance of elite footballers.

"It will also be an added attraction when we’re looking to recruit players."

Kinnear was right. Top players and top teams do need top training facilities.

The club, at the time, promised “exclusive” updates on the project, but it never got off the drawing board. And Eddie Howe and his players train at the same facility which was deemed to be out of date by Kinnear in November 2013.

Today, a new training ground, most likely on a new site, is again on on the agenda at United in the wake of last year’s £305million takeover by an ambitious consortium led by Amanda Staveley.

The new Newcastle United training complex and 'community stadium' proposed by GT3.

Speaking at an FT Live event earlier this month, co-owner Amanda said: “We all want the best for the club – and that’s to grow and help us develop.

"What that means is a new training ground, an academy. I’m passionate to get the women's football really moved back into the heart of the club. We’ve also had other facilities go up at other football clubs, so we’ve looked at other clubs' facilities quite enviously.”

While Newcastle’s plans for a new training complex gathered dust, other clubs, including Manchester City, Liverpool, Brighton and Hove Albion and Liverpool, pressed ahead with their own schemes.

United have been left behind, and fans were embarrassed by photographs of players using wheelie bins as makeshift ice baths during one pre-season campaign.

Newcastle United co-owners Amanda Staveley and Mehrdad Ghodoussi.

However, one boyhood Newcastle fan who worked on City’s academy stadium and training complex as well as the Olympic Stadium and Olympic Lyonnais’ new 60,000-seater ground is excited by the challenge of transforming the way United’s teams train – and bringing the community closer to the club.

Paul Reed, associate director and sport and leisure lead at North East-based GT3, used to watch Kevin Keegan’s team train at Maiden Castle in the 1990s.

“I was very lucky,” said Reed. “My first-ever match was Kevin Keegan’s testimonial match.

“When he was manager, I was one of those fans who went down to Maiden Castle to watch the team, and felt with the new owners, and new energy behind the club, that that was the kind of direction they were trying to go in, trying to get the club back to the community in many ways, which kind of resonated with me and the practice generally.

The entrance to Newcastle United's training ground.

“That was the spark in my mind. There was an opportunity to look at what we could do in terms of a design for an academy.”

Reed and his team have proposed an innovative training complex and 7,000-seat “community stadium” for the club, which didn’t commission the work, after reviewing academies and training grounds across Europe. Adjacent to it is an indoor training pitch.

The idea, according to GT3, is to “break down barriers between elite sport and the local community, reuniting players and people in a facility that is welcoming to all”.

And the proposed stadium would be a dedicated home for Newcastle United Women as well as the academy teams.

“One of the things for me, in terms of what we do as a business, is having done one of these for Manchester City, I felt that we’ve got all the skills and all the requisite requirements to put something like this together in terms of design,” said Reed.

“We’re looking to put together a design series, looking at different ways to solve architectural challenges through ‘people architecture’. For this one, it’s essentially putting the players, the fans, the working people of the football club at the centre of the design itself.

“We looked at the facilities that were needed, a full, high-end training facility, also including the women’s team.

"We did some research on European facilities that have been built over the past five years, and a lot of them are, unsurprisingly, quite insular and inward-looking in terms of trying to keep the players private, which obviously needs to happen.

“However, there was an opportunity to present the public face of the facility in a controlled manner, which is essentially the ‘community stadium’, a place where fans could go, the academy (teams) could play, the women’s team could play.

"It’s a small stadium, much like the size of the stadium at Manchester City in terms of a 7,000 capacity.

"But it would give the opportunity for the fans to go, maybe even watch the first team train in that arena, a little like the memories I’ve got of watching the players train at Maiden Castle. That would then garner interest from younger fans and new fans coming through to understand what Newcastle’s about.”

Staveley and the club’s new owners are looking to open the club up in many ways, and Reed is excited by the possibilities.

“Throughout my career, I’ve worked for numerous football clubs around the world,” said Reed. “For me, it was a really interesting opportunity as a Newcastle fan.

"The club seems to have a real positivity around it, a real energy. It felt like we could have that opportunity for a conversation-starter, just to put that out there as part of our design series.

"Obviously, we’d be more than happy to speak to the club, to see if we could assist them in terms of our specialism in this area. It’s great to see that opportunity for the region.”

While the club is to be open to moving the training facility, the club will not be moving to a new stadium.

Co-owner Mehrdad Ghodoussi told The Athletic: "We’ll definitely look at expanding it. We're working with the city and council to see what we can do. There are a lot of things that need to happen first, but that’s the way forward. If we can get it to 60 or 65,000 thousand, amazing, and we’ll look at every possibility.

"Are we going to build a new stadium? No. It would be like tearing your soul out."

The club is understood to be looking at “every option” to expand and improve St James’s Park, which has 52,000 seats.

Reed said: “The fact that the stadium’s in the city centre is a key element, it’s a key thing. A lot of football clubs move their stadiums outside city centres because of the cost involved.

"A lot of people have got a vested interest in St James’s Park in terms of their heart and soul. I was interested to hear the owners mention that they didn’t feel a move would be the right thing to do.

"It’s been mooted in the past. I was quite heartened by the idea that they would remain at St James’s Park in terms of the history, but other clubs have moved, and it’s been a positive thing for them.”

There’s no such attachment to United’s outdated training facility, which needs to be replaced with a complex suited to an ambitious Premier League club.

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