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Newcastle United are on the up as a football club. On the field, they are mixing it up with the heavyweights of football, finishing in the top four of the Premier League season in 2022/23.
That qualified them for the UEFA Champions League, for the first time in 20 years, in which they were drawn against AC Milan, Borussia Dortmund and PSG. A ‘group of death', for the Toon, many said, but a 0-0 draw at the San Siro against Milan and an extraordinary 4-1 victory at St. James' Park against PSG. That's some start!
Many remarked after that home win that the atmosphere at St. James' Park gave the players the adrenaline and belief to go and pull off a shock result.
Well, if that is the case, imagine what the place would be like with 65,000 screaming Geordies in it. That may turn into reality shortly, with plans for a Newcastle stadium expansion. Here's everything you need to know…
What are the Newcastle stadium expansion plans?
Telegraph Sport reported on 6 October that plans have begun to expand the stadium's capacity to 65,000 by adding 13,000 seats to the Gallowgate Stand and the East Stand.
While work is at a very early stage, with consultations being had with specialist architects on how to expand the stadium, cost and a timeframe are also a concern.
The plan, in theory, is to make the East Stand and Gallowgate Stand as big as the Milburn Stand and the Leazes Stand. There are complications to this though, with the East Stand being quite close to some listed buildings just behind it.
Are there any problems with St. James' Park renovation plans?
Yes, as well as the proximity of listed buildings, there is also residential housing, whose occupants are unlikely to let their homes be demolished. Building upwards would also cause a problem, as all-natural light to those houses would be blocked if any new stand was built there. All options will need to be looked at to find a suitable solution for all.
While plans for the expansion of the East Stand are still being discussed, the Gallowgate Stand is an easier proposition, with the club having already bought the land behind it, although this is being used to create a fanzone and will be used as such for the next couple of years.
When will Newcastle stadium expansion begin?
There is no definite timeframe as to when construction will begin but the club is committed to progressing off the field as they are seemingly doing on the field. It makes commercial sense because the demand for match day tickets far exceeds supply.
What does Eddie Howe think?
The Newcastle United manager is in favour of the expansion. He said: “I'd love to see it expanded. If it can be done, I'm sure the club will do it at some point.”
How much will St. James' Park renovation cost, and how will it be funded?
It's not yet clear how much the Newcastle stadium expansion might cost. You'd expect a couple of hundred million, but the unique challenges to St. James' Park in terms of light problems, listed buildings and residential housing could add to the cost significantly.
That shouldn't be a problem for the club, who are funded by Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund (PIF). Upon their 2021 takeover, this group insisted they had no direct connection to the Saudi Arabian state, but reports have cast significant doubt on those claims.
There is a split in Newcastle's support over the attitude towards their new owners. After the dire years under Mike Ashley's stewardship, the free spending and good mood can be hard not to get caught up in. But there are many who oppose the way their club is now being used as a vehicle for sportswashing by the Saudi Arabian state, who have allegedly committed significant breaches of human rights, including the 2018 murder of outspoken journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
How big is St. James' Park now?
With a capacity of 52,000 Newcastle's stadium is the seventh-largest in the Premier League.
Their position in these rankings has dramatically fallen in the last few years, with West Ham, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur all usurping the Geordies with their stadium moves, renovations and new-builds respectively.
A projected capacity of 65,000 – although the problems outlined above may mean this isn't possible – would take St. James' Park second in English club football, behind only Manchester United's Old Trafford.
What are the four stands at St James' Park?
The Gallowgate End is the south stand of the stadium. It is named Gallowgate because of the town's association with the old Gallows and the club's sponsorship connections with Scottish and Newcastle Breweries.
The North Stand is known as the Leazes End, as it is right beside Leazes Park. This is where the singing section of Newcastle fans can usually be found.
The Milburn Stand is west of the ground and is named after the footballer, Jackie Milburn, who played for the club in the 1950s.
The East Stand is fairly self-explanatory, name-wise! It is the smallest of all the stands. There are plans to rename it the Sir Bobby Robson Stand, but this has not officially been recognized yet.
Previous Newcastle stadium expansion at St James' Park
Built in 1892, St James' Park has always been the home of Newcastle United.
The last time it went under any sort of renovation was in 1998 after a failed attempt to move the club from St James' Park. The initial plan was to build a 55,000 all-seater stadium, similar to that of the San Siro, up north at Leazes Park. The Newcastle fans were not happy and after realizing the project would never happen, they turned to plan B.
Plan B was to expand on their current stadium, St James Park, and to bring it to over 52,000 in capacity. To do this, the Milburn Stand was to undergo major construction. Executive boxes in the East Stand were also demolished, making way for new seats. The excusable boxes were transferred to the new Milburn/Leazes stand.
The project took two years to build and cost £42 million. It was completed in July 2000, with the addition of a new roof being added right at the end of construction. The stadium was now at 52,000 capacity and is currently the eighth largest football stadium in England.