An Unlikely World Cup Venue: Home Park, Plymouth

Theatre of Greens

The Football Association announced today it had further narrowed its potential World Cup venue locations in England to 17 stadiums in 12 cities. The familiar names were there — Old Trafford, Wembley, etc — but one that will certainly have surprised observers at home and abroad was that of Home Park, Plymouth.

This is not the Theatre of Dreams: it’s the “Theatre of Greens”, home of Plymouth Argyle in the Championship (one of only two English teams to play in green). Home Park dates back to 1893, and though it’s been renovated since, isn’t exactly up to FIFA World Cup standards at present, holding around 20,000 after considerable renovation in the past decade.

But Plymouth’s presentation to England’s World Cup Bid panel included ambitious plans to upgrade the stadium to a 46,000 “Wembley of the West”. The club is already committed to a £20 million expansion of the stadium to hold 27,000 regardless of the bid, with plans to increase the capacity to 46,000 should the bid be successful at a cost of a further £30 million.

The stadium design is by Populous, one of the world’s leading stadia-design firms, also responsible for Wembley Stadium. Of particular interest was that a representative of American firm AEG, who have built and operated MLS stadia for a few years now, joined the Plymouth delegation’s presentation to the panel, with AEG slated to operate the stadium.

MLS fans will not be surprised to learn that AEG’s interest in Home Park is in more than the sport of soccer, with rugby and other entertainment events also planned for the venue. Plymouth impressed this on the World Cup panel as evidence the giant stadium would not end up empty besides any World Cup games it hosted.

“I think they got the impact of the design of the stadium, and most importantly they got the point that the stadium is about multi-sport and entertainment use after the World Cup. It’s not just about Argyle’s 23 home games a season,” Plymouth’s executive director Keith Todd told the Plymouth Herald.

A curious wrinkle is that AEG’s billionaire owner and long-time major backer of MLS, Phil Anschutz, sits on the USA Bid Committee competing with England to win the right to host the World Cup. I guess it helps to have more than one basket to put your eggs in, doesn’t it?

4 thoughts on “An Unlikely World Cup Venue: Home Park, Plymouth

  1. Penfold

    I can understand why you pick Plymouth out for particular consideration (it’s American connection through AEG). Far more surprising – and maybe even concerning for English fans – would be the selection of three other grounds in the 16, namely MK Don’s MK Stadium, Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough and Leeds United’s Elland Road.

    MK Dons and MK Stadium, let us not forget, only exist due to the despicable decision to allow a franchise to enter English football. This is not something we should be promoting in the home of football – a particular aspect the FA continue to peddle in it’s bid for the 2018 World Cup. The Guardian provides a good comment on the inclusion of this stadium right here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2009/dec/16/milton-keynes-world-cup-2018. Coupled with this is the fact that Milton Keynes is a god-awful ‘new’ town lacking any sort of character, ambience or charm. I pity the fans of teams based there. The good news is that it does have excellent transport links to nicer towns and cities

    Moving on to Hillsborough and Elland Road – only a fool can question their history – but any recent visitors to either stadium will surely agree that they are both crumbling, scruffy, beyond-their-best grounds in dire need of complete redevelopment. If you have the temerity to turn your gaze from these two FA default Yorkshire-choice grounds , even only a few miles across Sheffield to Bramall Lane, you will find better stadia owned by financially stable clubs (relatively…) with existing, realistic plans to further develop into world class facilities under their own steam. And get this, without the need to subsidise their development with public money. Imagine that!

    Taking Bramall Lane as an example; here is a ground steeped in footballing history, conveniently located next to Sheffield City Centre, within 10 minutes walk of a major mainline train station, an existing capacity of just under 33,000 and advanced plans to extend to 40,000+. These plans are so advanced that the scheme has already been submitted to Sheffield City Council for their consideration. Also worth noting is that Sheffield United are backed by chairman and property expert Kevin McCabe – a man with a fantastic record of delivering large schemes on budget and, crucially, on time.

    There may even be the an argument for considering Hull City’s KC Stadium or Doncaster Rover’s Keepmoat Stadium over Elland Road and Hillsborough. Yet the FA continue to choose these to ageing, flaking, tired monoliths.

    OK, so the World Cup is still 8 years away, allowing plenty of time for grounds to be improved. The bid may not even be succesful; but the FA have made a far more controversial decision through the inclusion of these three grounds.

    All the best to Plymouth!

    Yours etc,

    Penfold

  2. A. Ruiz

    “even only a few miles across Sheffield to Bramall Lane, you will find better stadia owned by financially stable clubs (relatively…) with existing, realistic plans to further develop into world class facilities under their own steam. And get this, without the need to subsidise their development with public money. Imagine that!”

    Do you see? That’s exactly the whole point. The FA will pick stadiums that need renovation, because they know that in the excitement they can get public money so teams don’t have to spend any of their own.

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  4. Darbs

    MK Dons is a big surprize when you consider Derby has a great stadium as does Leicester. Fair play to Plymouth – it will be great for the area. Also Paul Mariner the former Assistant Coach of the New England Revolution is now the Manager of Plymouth Argyle.