Aston Villa - a team currently out of the promotion picture going into the second chapter of the Championship season - are currently preparing for life back in the spotlight.
The big plans? Well - they involve quite a fair bit and we’ll get around to dissecting those thoughts and ideas soon, but the big issue is the proposed expansion of Villa Park.
Keith Wyness, the CEO of AVFC spoke at length to the AVFC OS tonight - and there was a lengthy chat about the future of Villa Park.
It wasn’t just table talk though. Aston Villa will expand the stadium upon promotion to the Premier League with a regeneration of the Aston Lower Grounds, Villa Park and B6 in general. The big goal is to create 60,000 seats at Villa Park within five years of promotion to the Premier League. Currently, the regeneration plans are afoot - simply because those are more realistic. Filling 60k seats will take a lot of work from the club who are struggling to get 35k into Villa Park right now.
The regeneration of the area will focus on sports and is a project backed by Birmingham City Council. The plans will likely include training grounds, academy installations and other sporting apparatus. It could be that Villa Park & Aston Villa link up with Athletics Clubs in the region to create a premier sporting facility for multiple uses - while reserving the stadium for footy.
The expansion of the stadium itself has plenty of forethought. Randy Lerner lobbied for the North Stand to be filled in at the corners for a number of years before his project lost steam. It’s the North Stand that will be the focus of any redevelopment, with the Witton Lane stand and even the Holte End being considered for development. If Villa want 60k bums in seats (or standing!) they will need to redevelop almost every single stand within the stadium with minor additions.
Funnily enough, a lot of the groundwork for the ‘Recon’ vision of Villa Park was laid by Randy Lerner - and Keith Wyness is facing a lot of the obstacles that the former Villa chairman faced. For example, any expansion might need to consider both Aston and Witton stations and how suitable they are for increased traffic. What’s more, the roads surrounding Villa Park will need to be adapted once more to fit a inflated VP.
The truth of the matter is this - Villa Park is a beautiful, picturesque footballing arena; but it is ageing. If Villa acheive promotion, and succeed upon promotion - Villa Park, like it or not, could hold the club back in the long term. We’re seeing a lot of trouble with the stadium with regards to disabled supporters and how accessible the place is - and these problems will only escalate when more people want to see Villa. If Wyness and Xia can successfully enhance Villa Park without losing everything that makes Villa Park, Villa Park - then consider this project a success.