UWE is dead, long live the Mem!

The club (or more precisely Dwyane Sports) has not been able to agree terms for a new Stadium at the UWE site. Last week we saw the news leaked and a hurried statement from the club followed. Since then Wael has given an interview to give some answers that Gasheads have been clamouring out for. You can view it here.

We now know the plan is to re-develop the Mem. Somewhere we’ve been before, most recently in 2008 when plans were released for an 18,500 seater stadium with student accommodation, a hotel, offices, a gym, a convenience store, a sports injury clinic, a restaurant overlooking the pitch, a supporters club bar, the club shop, etc, etc.

I’m painfully aware that UWE falling through is not good news for Rovers although I much prefer to stay at the Mem personally. The old and new boards both identified that the clubs future lay away from the Mem. In modern times stadia need to be able to generate income 7 days a week, not just on match days. This is something the Mem in its current guise is not capable of. The fact this is now the plan going forward doesn’t fill me with confidence.

 

Planning permission that was hard won on the 2008 plan has long since passed. The club will need to start the whole process over again. This does present the club with a chance to start fresh with new ideas from recent builds and hopefully learning from others mistakes.

So with that in mind I’d like to give my thoughts on what the new Mem will have to do and some of the things it could do to be financially viable and secure the long term future of the club.

For this article I’m going under the assumption we will demolish all the current stands and build a new stadium similar in size and design to the 2008 plans.

Sell outs

This one is top of the list for a reason. If we add an extra 6/7,000 to the capacity we need to fill those seats. There are lots of ways the club can do this from reducing overall ticket prices to promotions.

To my mind the huge student population in Bristol could be an easy win for ticket promotions. Beyond that I’m a big fan of the kid-a-quid matches to get the next generation of Gasheads along to games.

I would also like to see a reduction in ticket prices across the board (who wouldn’t?) I’m sure there is a sweet spot where the club can take the hit of reduced ticket price offset by the extra tickets sold. When you see clubs like Bradford offering great deals on season tickets (https://www.bradfordcityfc.co.uk/tickets/season-tickets/) you wonder if Rovers can do the same to fill the extra seats.

The club does have some decent promotions like under 16s can get a free season ticket if they are e member of the young pirates. The problem is the club doesn’t do a very good job of advertising these deals. Hopefully with the new stadium the club can do a better job on the marketing side to get bums on seats.

Conferencing

This is one of the main targets for any club to make full use of the stadium outside of match days. Of course the club will be adding conference space to the new Mem.

The difficulty will be filling the space as the Mem is in an awkward spot to get to and the new plans have no sign of any parking leaving people reliant on public transport which brings me nicely to…

Travel

We all know how busy Gloucester Road gets on a Saturday, traffic is at a crawl or a standstill, people are walking in the road because the pavements are full. On top of that anyone driving faces the prospect of driving round for 20 minutes to find a space over a mile from the ground. This will only get worse with an extra 6/7,000 people added.

So what can be done?

There are a few Park and Ride schemes dotted throughout the city. The closest one (from my brief look at Google Maps) is Lyle Green in Emersons Green. Could that be used on matchdays to ferry people to and from the Mem? Could the others do a ‘football special’ to get people up to the Mem? Could more be opened? Lots of potential here.

The more the club can do to encourage people to take the bus instead of driving will help. If First bus were willing to put extra busses on that could help as could utilising the new Metro bus. I haven’t paid much attention to the Metro bus so I don’t know how feasible that is.

Re-opening Ashley Hill station. This is really close to the stadium and could replace a car journey for a lot of people. I would hope the club are talking to BCC about this as it could be a really simple solution to getting people off the roads. There are clamours for more local train stops in North Bristol so this could work really well for the club and local residents.

One idea I’m a huge fan of is a reduced fares on public transport with a match ticket. This is something they have in Germany and as the club have a good relationship with First Bus so it could be a possibility for the bus. Maybe a deal can be done with GWR too?

On the walking side I was impressed at Charlton as they cleared the roads leading to the Valley on match days. The extra room given to fans meant we could get in and out easily and traffic didn’t need to dodge people in the road. This will most likely face fierce resistance from local residents so I can’t see it happening.

Hospitality

Often called the ‘prawn sandwich brigade’ hospitality is big business with clubs charging a hefty premium for the pleasure. With an expanded stadium so to comes the opportunity to expand and improve the hospitality at the Mem.

Having been to hospitality I can say it is a cracking experience. With more people, a larger bar and dare I say it a bit nicer food this could be a huge money spinner for the club.

On the bar side the club is woefully short in an area rich in bars and pubs. If the club had a decent bar I think Gasheads would be all over it. I’m not alone in saying that I would rather give my money to the club rather than a chain pub down the road.

A really good sports bar in the stadium would encourage people to turn up early and stay late which helps with the congestion around the first and final whistle. Serving decent, but basic food would encourage people to use the bar too. The main things are: quick service, decent selection, plenty of seating, decent food and TVs. Its not rocket science.

This is something Brighton have done brilliantly and for away fans too. When a team visits the AMEX Brighton will put on a local beer from the visitors hometown. A genius move if you ask me. As an away fan if I knew I could rock up to the stadium, watch the early kick off with a nice pint I’d go for it personally.

This bar could be a revenue generator through the week too. The sporty is the best sports pub on Gloucester Road for my money and I’m sure the club could do something better. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again that the supporters bar at Walsall is exactly what I want. A big hall with quick service, pie and chips and sky sports. Perfect!

Something like that off Gloucester Road open every night is bound to do well.

The club could look at utilising the space as a coffee shop in the day, but there is stiff competition from the surrounding cafes so I’m not sure how viable this would be.

Season ticket discounts

This seems like its pretty much standard practice, but we don’t do it. Give season ticket holders 5% off at the bar, gym, venue hire, whatever. It will encourage people to use the clubs facilities rather than go elsewhere.

While we’re on the subject of season tickets for god sake get season cards in! I like the retro feel of the book, but as we’ve seen they are susceptible to fraud.

If the club is clever they can get fans to scan their card or enter in their card number when buying away tickets (online please!) and reward those who are going to a lot of away games with priority amongst season ticket holders for big games like Chelsea (a).

With a decent database of supporters and their attendance habits the club can run promotions on tickets, food and drink, etc. Its not all that difficult to do.

Safe Standing

This is more of a nice to have, but the safe standing debate has moved on significantly since 2008 with lots of successful trials. It looks likely that safe standing will be allowed in English grounds in the future so I think this is something the club should look at from the off.

Fans standing instead of sitting allows more fans to fit in the stands so this could maximise the amount of space the club has to play with. This will almost certainly improve the atmosphere attracting more people to come and watch. How many people do you know that have always wanted to see the yellow wall at Dortmund? Rovers could have its own version. Name suggestions are welcome.

Move the club shop

I don’t think anyone enjoys going into the club shop at the moment. I certainly don’t. Its tiny, usually rammed and claustrophobic. With space at a premium at the Mem site, why not move the shop onto Gloucester Road? This would free up valuable space on the Mem site and give the opportunity to expand the club shop into a space people actually want to visit.

The increased footfall on Gloucester Road could increase sales too.

Solar panelled roof

Given the large amount of roof space the current ground has let alone the redeveloped Mem, maybe the club can have a think about installing solar panels on the roofs of the stands. This could help with getting planning permission through as well as reducing the stadiums electricity demands and carbon footprint.

Bit of a left field suggestion, but this could on sunny days actually provide a small amount of income for the club. Not all that likely due to the initial cost.

Fans wall

A general view of a fan’s wall at Molineux, home of Wolverhampton Wanderers

A few stadiums (like Molineux pictured) have the names of fans who are sadly no longer with us engraved on the walls of the stadium. The club could offer out a deal to fans that they can purchase a brick with an inscription ahead of the build. This could raise a decent chunk of revenue that the club doesn’t need to borrow to get the redevelopment financed.

This can then be an ongoing scheme to provide another much needed revenue stream.

Naming rights

This is a well-trodden path for a lot of clubs. I don’t think it will work for us as the Memorial Stadium is a memorial to to the war dead and as such slapping a sponsor on the name is in poor taste.

The stands are more than fair game however and this is something that happens at the current Mem. You would think that a nicer stadium with more people in will increase the cost of sponsoring the stands.

Summary

These are just my thoughts on some of the things the club can look at to make the redevelopment a success. Realistically the new Mem is going to be limited to a max capacity well below other teams, even the ones in our league. For that reason non-match day revenue becomes really important to enable us to compete with the big boys in League one and hopefully the Championship.

I would like the club to get fans on board early and ask them what they want from a redeveloped Mem. The majority of us are rational people and we understand that compromises need to be made to accommodate corporate guests and the like.

With that in mind I’m sure we can come up with some ideas that fans would like and the club benefit from. Do you have any? Leave a reply in the comment box below!

UTG

Tom is a season ticket holder sitting in the posh seats in the Dri-build. Originally from East Bristol he now resides in the badlands of BS3 where Irene is a slag and Darrel Clarke wanks off dogs if the stickers are to believed.

One Response to “UWE is dead, long live the Mem!

  • With obvious limited space at the Mem, designers should consider digging down and lowering the pitch. This would provide more much needed space for stands and increase capacity without taking up excess space. Safe standing terraces would also maximise capacity and increase atmosphere. It could be an exciting project.

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