Cambridge United To Stay At Abbey Stadium

It's been confirmed Cambridge United will stay at the R Costings Abbey Stadium, following months of speculation.

It had been thought the current Abbey stadium would be turned into housing, when a new sports village was built in Trumpington -and the U's would move to Trumpington too.

But now, it's been revealed the Abbey stadium will stay where it is, and the sports village will still go ahead, minus the community stadium.

A Trust will deliver both the Cambridge Community Stadium in Newmarket Road, Abbey and the Cambridge Sporting Village in Trumpington, its promoters Grosvenor and Cambridge United Football Club confirmed in a joint announcement.

The proposals will revolutionise the quality and quantity of sports and community facilities in Cambridge, to the benefit of the communities and wider areas, and will be tailored to match a clearly identified sporting need.

The most comprehensive assessment of sports facilities ever carried out in the Cambridge region will pave the way for plans to come forward later in 2015.

A team of researchers consulted Cambridge’s 70 leading sporting clubs, local authorities, and education bodies. It is the most detailed audit of the city and region’s need for additional sporting facilities ever produced.

The report has just been submitted to the local authorities by leading sports consultants Grant Thornton and Knight, Kavanagh & Page. It looks in detail at how the city’s additional sporting needs can be delivered across Cambridge.

The announcement comes after years of consultation and speculation around the future of Cambridge United and whether they would stay at their spiritual home or relocate elsewhere in the city.

The precise details of the particular facilities to be developed at each location will be the subject of discussion between local communities, Grosvenor, the football club and the authorities but preliminary plans are being drawn up for discussion.

Plans for a Trust are also being discussed and could see Cambridge United’s hugely successful Community Trust take a lead role at both sites, providing sporting opportunities for all sections of the community and increased engagement with the Abbey Ward, one of the least developed wards in the city These latest plans will drive the regeneration of the area providing new community facilities open to residents of the Ward.

Ed Skeates, Grosvenor Director of Development, said:

"The proposals we are confirming today can provide Cambridge with a variety of widely accessible, inspirational sports facilities and secure the future of CUFC as the city’s leading professional sports club – a cornerstone of our ambitions for this project.

"Our single, unified vision for a first class community-based sporting complex will serve Cambridge and the wider region and enhance Cambridge's reputation as a world class and thriving cosmopolitan city.

"The Cambridge Sporting Village will be a vibrant new hub for sports, training, education, health, recreation, open green space and new homes in a truly sustainable location.

"The Cambridge Community Stadium will revitalise the Abbey Stadium with a new focus on community uses and new governance structure."

Jez George, Cambridge United Chief Executive, said:

"Cambridge United are a progressive club but our stadium is antiquated and unfit for purpose if we are to continue the progression of the last eighteen months.

"We need to be able to grow our non match-day income and generate additional revenue on match days so we can grow a sustainable business. Otherwise, the club cannot grow beyond our current level. We also need facilities fit for the 21st century to give supporters, now including an increasing number of families and youngsters, a good experience when they visit the football club.

"Further, for the long time viability of the club needs a thriving Academy and Community Trust. Both do an incredible amount of good work without any secure financial foundations.

"Our Academy is currently going through an audit process to be recognised under EPPP, the Elite Player Performance Plan that governs all Football League clubs. This is the pathway for the most gifted and talented local youngsters into professional football and has been a success on so many levels. Nevertheless, it fails to meet the criteria for training facilities as we are forced to hire seven different astros, at locations all over Cambridgeshire, at unsociable hours due to such a lack of availability.

"Our community trust also needs the facilities to grow its outreach within the city to build on the work that has been achieved in the last four years. Over 8000 youngsters benefit directly from the trust's community engagement as we engage with all cross sections of the community as we use sport to improve the health, well being and education of all the citizens of Cambridge.

"We feel that Cambridge United FC has shown in the last 12 months that it is an asset to the city and with improved facilities, we could play an even greater role. This period has seen two successful trips to Wembley, promotion back to the Football League, a cup run including the visit of Manchester United, Mission 676 – which raised over £100,000 for our Community Trust - and the continued success of our youth development scheme, which coaches over 1000 youngsters each week and works in 50 local schools. We want to do so much more and this would give us an opportunity to do so."

A change in lease arrangements will allow for the existing stadium to become a Community Stadium, maximising it's potential for its wider and fuller use by the surrounding community and meet local needs, whilst maintaining its position as a home for CUFC.

The team's on-pitch performance has seen the crowds returning to the Football League ground and the forthcoming FA Cup game with Manchester United has generated an unprecedented demand for tickets. However, capacity at the R Costings Abbey Stadium has reduced in recent years to a little under 8,000 due to tightening regulations and lack of investment.

Plans for improving the clubs' corporate facilities are also being discussed. The club is determined to ensure it capitalises on the recent revitalisation of the club by growing its match day and non-match day income, and securing its financial future.

Cambridge United have been significantly aided in the last four years by Grosvenor's rent reduction which has helped the club survive and stabilise. However, this payment is due to return to its original level in 2015.
Pre-application discussions have now started with South Cambridgeshire District Council and Cambridge City Council’s planners. An application will be prepared in parallel with the city’s Local Plan process and submitted later in the year following further consultation.

Grosvenor will be working in partnership with Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) - the owner of Cambridge’s Grand Arcade and Grosvenor’s partners at award-winning Trumpington Meadows - to develop proposals. Grosvenor’s local partners Wrenbridge continues to work on the project and will assist with its delivery.

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