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Wrexham Stadium Expansion: Latest updates on delayed Kop redevelopment

Wrexham AFC's rise to the Football League has read like a Hollywood script. Well, it would with owners Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney, and the actor pairing's investment has not been limited to the pitch, where big-money signings have catapulted the North Wales side back into League Two with aspirations of continued progress.

The next stage for the rapidly developing Red Dragons is to undergo a Wrexham stadium expansion, with the Kop redevelopment the priority.

What's the Wrexham stadium like now?

The Racecourse Ground is a historic stadium having hosted Wales' first home international match back in 1877. Although it is no longer the regular home of the national side, it has hosted more Wales international games than any other ground.

It's the largest stadium in north Wales – Cardiff and Swansea are both in the south – and the fifth largest in the country overall. It has been the home of Wrexham AFC for its entire history and has hosted rugby league, rugby union, youth football and many music concerts.

Wrexham AFC stadium The Racecourse Ground | Wrexham Stadium Expansion
The Racecourse Ground currently has only three stands | Photo by Icon Sport

Why does the Racecourse Ground need expanding?

It's less about expansion and more about restoring the ground to its full capacity. The stadium's ‘Kop', that being the stand behind the goal, was once the largest all-standing terrace in the English Football League. But in 2008, it was deemed unsafe and it has remained unused ever since, making Wrexham's Racecourse Ground effectively a three-stand-only stadium.

Given the club's aspirations, three stands isn't enough. And so, rebuilding the Kop became a key priority for the new owners, Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenny, who officially took over the club in February 2021 after several months of talks.

Timeline of Wrexham stadium expansion

On 15 June 2022, Wrexham released the first images of the designs for a proposed Kop development.

Accompanied with these was a statement from co-chairmen Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds which said: “Back in February 2021, when we first became custodians of the Club, it was identified that reverting the Racecourse Ground to a four-sided stadium was a priority for us.

“The desire to achieve this objective has only been multiplied by the fact that the sold-out signs were a regular feature at the Racecourse Ground, and we want the Club to be accessible to everyone, so the increased capacity is key to achieving this.

Icon 63373328
Wrexham's Hollywood owners in 2021, prior to the Kop's demolition | Photo by Icon Sport

“We would encourage everyone to support the planning application when it is submitted and would like to thank Wrexham Council, Welsh Government & Wrexham Glyndwr University (together the Gateway Partnership) who are fully committed to making the new Kop a reality.

“Finally, a big thank you to our design team, AFL Architects, Gardiner & Theobald, Ramboll, Savills and Royal Pilgrim.”

A statutory consultation period of one month followed over July 2022, with the club meeting local organisations, politicians and residents.

A planning application was then submitted for the Wrexham County Borough Council.

new kop at Racecourse Ground
A computer-generated image of the new Kop released by Wrexham AFC in June 2022.

In November 2022, Wrexham Council approved the club's plans to construct a 5,500-capacity all-seating stand which would include official and retail space, facilities for the Wrexham Community Trust and a hospitality lounge for matches.

In January 2023, the current, unused Kop stand was demolished in preparation for a complete rebuild. Things looked positive for the club and a targeted opening date for the new stand was released for the start of the 2024/25 season. However, things have changed, and there is now no clarity on when the Kop redevelopment will be complete.

The latest update on the Wrexham stadium expansion and Kop redevelopment

“The new Kop will not be open for the start of the 2024/25 season with a projected build period of 12 months from commencement on site,” a Wrexham AFC statement read on 20 September 2023.

“There is no date for starting on site, as several matters need to be resolved before that can be confirmed. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌‌‌​‍‌​‌​‌‌​​‍‌​​‌‌‌‌​‍‌​​​​‌‌​‍‌​‌​‌​‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​​‌‌​‍‌​‌‌‌‌‌​‍‌​​​‌‌​‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌​‌​‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌​‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​‌​​‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​‌‌​​

“To enable a contract to build the Kop to be signed, the grant funding agreement from Wrexham County Borough Council needs to be finalised and the Club satisfied that the conditions attached to the funding offer can be fulfilled. It is hoped that these negotiations will be completed before the end of October 2023. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌‌‌​‍‌​‌​‌‌​​‍‌​​‌‌‌‌​‍‌​​​​‌‌​‍‌​‌​‌​‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​​‌‌​‍‌​‌‌‌‌‌​‍‌​​​‌‌​‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌​‌​‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌​‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​‌​​‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​‌‌​​

“There are several conditions that the Club needs to be satisfied can be fulfilled which includes, but are not limited to: ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌‌‌​‍‌​‌​‌‌​​‍‌​​‌‌‌‌​‍‌​​​​‌‌​‍‌​‌​‌​‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​​‌‌​‍‌​‌‌‌‌‌​‍‌​​​‌‌​‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌​‌​‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌​‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​‌​​‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​‌‌​​

  • The collapse of the existing lease structure at the STōK Cae Ras. Good progress has been made with the WST in this regard, with an update on the position due to be announced soon by the WST. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌‌‌​‍‌​‌​‌‌​​‍‌​​‌‌‌‌​‍‌​​​​‌‌​‍‌​‌​‌​‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​​‌‌​‍‌​‌‌‌‌‌​‍‌​​​‌‌​‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌​‌​‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌​‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​‌​​‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​‌‌​​
  • Confirmation of the requirements to meet UEFA’s Category 4 stadium status and that these can be achieved. A report is awaited from UEFA after a stadium visit. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌‌‌​‍‌​‌​‌‌​​‍‌​​‌‌‌‌​‍‌​​​​‌‌​‍‌​‌​‌​‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​​‌‌​‍‌​‌‌‌‌‌​‍‌​​​‌‌​‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌​‌​‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌​‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​‌​​‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​‌‌​​

“From a practical perspective, to allow a contractor to commence, the following works also needs to be completed: ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌‌‌​‍‌​‌​‌‌​​‍‌​​‌‌‌‌​‍‌​​​​‌‌​‍‌​‌​‌​‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​​‌‌​‍‌​‌‌‌‌‌​‍‌​​​‌‌​‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌​‌​‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌​‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​‌​​‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​‌‌​​

  • Permanent diversion of existing sewer away from the land required for the Kop with Welsh Water and Admiral Taverns (owners of The Turf). ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌‌‌​‍‌​‌​‌‌​​‍‌​​‌‌‌‌​‍‌​​​​‌‌​‍‌​‌​‌​‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​​‌‌​‍‌​‌‌‌‌‌​‍‌​​​‌‌​‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌​‌​‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌​‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​‌​​‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​‌‌​​
  • Removal of a low voltage cable and substation that serves the student accommodation that runs across the land required for the Kop with SPEN and Wrexham University. Power needs to be always retained to the student accommodation and the University now have planning permission to build a new substation to facilitate this. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌‌‌​‍‌​‌​‌‌​​‍‌​​‌‌‌‌​‍‌​​​​‌‌​‍‌​‌​‌​‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​​‌‌​‍‌​‌‌‌‌‌​‍‌​​​‌‌​‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌​‌​‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌​‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​‌​​‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​‌‌​​

“Further updates will be issued in due course when progress is made.”​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌‌‌​‍‌​‌​‌‌​​‍‌​​‌‌‌‌​‍‌​​​​‌‌​‍‌​‌​‌​‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​​‌‌​‍‌​‌‌‌‌‌​‍‌​​​‌‌​‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌​‌​‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌​‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​‌​​‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​

W‌hen will work finally begin on Wrexham stadium expansion?

Well, work has begun in that plans have been made and the old Kop has been demolished. But when work will start on the construction of the new stand remains unclear.

There is hope that Wrexham's negotiations with the local council will be completed by the end of October 2023. That could allow construction to begin in November or December, giving a potential opening date of December 2024, but it's hard to say.

Several issues must be sorted out first, both on funding and on meeting regulations to ensure the renovated Racecourse Ground is fit to be “The Stadium of the North” and can hold significant international fixtures as well as League Two matches for Wrexham AFC.

Wrexham AFC's Racecourse Ground | Wales international match 2019
The Racecourse Ground has hosted international matches since 1877, and continues to do so. Redevelopment should ensure it does so for many years to come | Photo by Spi/Icon Sport

How will the Wrexham stadium expansion be funded?

Well, this has been a cause of concern for Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney.

During Episode One, Season Two of the “Welcome to Wrexham” documentary, footage was shown of Reynolds and McElhenney learning about a setback in funding.

Wrexham and their owners had hoped to receive a portion of a £25m Welsh government grant given to the local council. In January 2023, they learnt that they wouldn't receive anything from the UK government's Levelling-Up Fund.

On Welcome to Wrexham, Reynolds joked “I'll sell one of my children” when discussing alternative funding solutions.

As things stand, the funding isn't fully agreed, but it will involve significant investment from Wrexham AFC itself as well as contributions from the Welsh FA, Transport for Wales and the council.

What will Wrexham's new Kop stand look like?

Within the June 2022 press release from the club, details have emerged about what the new Kop will look like. For starters, the new stand will have a 5,500 capacity and will include a hospitality lounge, office space for the club and facilities for the Wrexham AFC Community Trust. In essence, it will be more than just your average football stand, particularly for a club in League Two.

Despite that, the vast majority of the 5,500 capacity will be for general admission meaning loyal supporters who have followed the club in the National League will benefit from the expansion. The 5,000 “seats” which will be available for general admission will actually be UEFA-approved safe-standing sections meaning fans will be able to stand in the new kop with a rail installed in front of each seat.

The concourse area in and around the Kop will be converted on non-matchdays to an exhibition space for the local community to use. This should generate more economic activity for local businesses in Wrexham which will benefit the town.

Should Wrexham enjoy another successful year on the pitch next season then the brand-new Kop could make its debut in League One in December 2024, but there is a huge amount of work to make that possible, on several fronts.

Latest video updates on Wrexham's new Kop stand

‘Mister Drone' on YouTube is creating a documentary on the Kop redevelopment, with brilliant drone footage evidencing the progress on the Wrexham stadium expansion.

Here are his most two most recent episodes from August and September 2023: