York City have just been given the green light to build their new stadium, bidding farewell to their venerable old ground. Tony Dawber meets the chairman of the York City Supporters’ Trust, Ian Hey.
For fans of York City, these are bitter-sweet times. Following relegation from the Football League in April, their club has just been given the all-clear to move to a new stadium.
The Minstermen are saying goodbye to Bootham Crescent, their home since 1932, a goal kick from York’s historic city walls.
‘Obviously we are delighted that the new stadium is now going ahead,’ says Ian Hey, chairman of the York City Supporters’ Trust. ‘But there’s real sadness at leaving Bootham Crescent, with all the memories that it holds for us.’
‘Older supporters will remember the run to the semi final of the FA Cup in 1955, including a famous home win over Tottenham Hotspur in the fifth round. I will always cherish the last-minute penalty winner against Arsenal in the FA Cup, beating Everton in the League Cup and winning the old Fourth Division Championship with 101 points.’
But Hey is the first to concede that the old place is no longer fit for purpose.
‘Bootham Crescent is probably the only ground in England where the corporate boxes overlook the car park! It has poor disabled facilities, some parts of the ground are in serious need of repair and basic maintenance is costing the club about £150k per season.’
It’s been a long journey from Bootham Crescent to Monks Cross, on York’s north-eastern outskirts. The site is occupied by Huntington Stadium, former home of the York City Knights rugby league club. Only built in 1989, it is now being demolished.
After protracted negotiations, the Knights moved out last year and are lodging temporarily at Bootham Crescent. Chairman John Guildford confirmed that they are fully behind the new project and eagerly awaiting the day when the plans finally come to fruition.
The site has now been levelled and after the final planning hurdle was cleared last week, construction of the new ground will start in September.
‘It has been several years since the original decision to pursue the new stadium was made,’ explains Hey. ‘After several delays, we are all relieved that we now seem to be on the home strait.’
When completed, the complex at Monks Cross will feature shopping outlets, sports facilities and a cinema around a 6,000-seater stadium that York City and the Knights will share.
And Hey agrees that the long-awaited move represents a new dawn for a club that has had its fair share of struggles in recent times.
‘The new stadium will provide us with significant increased match-day income, a reduction in running costs and additional revenue streams from non-match day activities.’
It’s a hard road back to Football League status, as York well know – it took them eight long years to return to the ranks after a previous demotion in 2004. Hey concludes on a defiant note: ‘Relegation was a blow but we will be back’.