Bangor City and their new ground

2 11 2011

When I re-read Ffwtbol last week I came across an article about Bangor’s new ground at Nantporth and it caused me a nagging sensation.  I began to feel that I should really write an update for the couple of people that read this blog. When someone on the When Saturday Comes message board asked what was happening at Nantporth later in the week I realised that an update for the couple of people that read this blog was an absolute must.

Let’s start with the plans; they look like this and so far there has been this much progress.

The plans for Nantporth represent the bare minimum that the developers/builders are prepared to leave us with. Fortunately the club have their own plans – already in motion –  to improve the complex once we get our hands on it.

Eventually we hope to have a community-friendly complex that will include a 3,000 capacity ground and a 3G training pitch. There will be a monument at the new ground for all the people that have had their ashes spread at Farrar Road. After its development the basic shape of the ground will be traditional; stands down both sides and terracing at both ends. The local community will be able to use the 3G pitch and the good-sized clubhouse.

It’s fitting that the local community are involved because the club is part of the local community. The local community have already played their part in developing the potential of the complex by signing the petition to support the 3G pitch planning application (Planning permission was granted partly as a result of this support).  The community aspect of the development is the most exciting aspect of the move.

It’s one thing to write about plans but money and further planning permission remain difficult obstacles to clear. Unfortunately there is no pressure upon the developers to provide more than the binding contract – signed 10 years ago – sets out. This is why we are only going to get the most basic of facilities.

Consequently the development of Nantporth will rely on grants from various sources. For example the 3G pitch will require grants from at least 3 sources and may need the involvement of Coleg Menai, the local tertiary college. There is much positivity about the potential development because Bangor’s board seem confident that the club will be able to access the funding. Dilwyn, Bangor’s chairman, has told us that everybody, including the FAW, is onside. The FAW have even proclaimed that they are impressed by the plans. This is very important because the FAW can provide grants.

As you can imagine a lot of people are very sorry about leaving the historic venue of Farrar Road, some are even inconsolable. People are bound to be sad that we are about to lose our comfortable old home. It is a place that “..smells of football”, to quote FC Midtjylland’s general manager. 

While Farrar Road is certainly historic it’s also a bit musty if you look too closely at the edges. Some great steps have been taken since the summer to make Farrar Road look presentable but the murals and new coats of paint can’t hide the fact that Farrar Road needs a major re-fit for European matches.

Unfortunately the resolute and immovable attitude of the owners of the ground, the city council, has meant that the development of the historic ground was always sadly out of the question. For roughly a decade they have said that the development of Farrar Road will cost too much. As they are the owners of Farrar Road that’s been a major problem.

One could argue that Farrar Road could have been developed with grants from the FAW Trust. The main problems with that were, 1) the club didn’t own the ground so they could not apply for grants and 2) let’s just say the city council wanted Farrar Road off their list of expenditure as quickly as possible. Hence the solution at Nantporth was formulated. Although this plan is old news – and we’ve had a decade to get used to the idea –  it doesn’t make the situation any easier to deal with.

The events of the last decade haven’t helped us deal with the situation either. We’ve had our misguided hopes raised almost perpetually. The proposed move was continually postponed (Nothing happened from 2001 until 2007 – when they laid a pitch and built an access roundabout was built – From 2007 until August 2011 nothing further happened) Plans for the post-move use of the Farrar Road site were also continually changed.  We hoped the move would fall through but the move is happening.

Two things have happened because of the impending move; everything suddenly feels poignant and  people have started to “bluster”. The logical will say that well this was coming anyway and wonder why people are blustering now but logic doesn’t create emotional ties.

The way the move has been engineered in the last couple of months has only added to the general unease. After a decade of delays, postponements, aborted actions, the application of pressure by “whoever” has led to a general feeling that we are to be thrown out of Farrar Road with indecent haste.

Originally last summer “they” (I’m unsure who’s actually calling the tune here so “they” will remain obscure) said we had to be out of Farrar Road by May 2012. We groaned but we had all heard the mutterings and rumours about work on Nantporth recommencing. Although no-one wanted to hear this we grew accustomed to the idea. We knew the move was going to happen anyway and at least this time period would provide a chance to secure the funding for the ground. We thought that this would give us the chance to have a complete ground before we first played on it. More importantly we could plan a proper farewell for Farrar Road.

Then the tune changed and “they” gave Bangor City  three month’s notice to move out instead. As a result there is grumbling about the precise roles of the developer and city council in the move. The justified grumbling has may parts;

Firstly, we are still not entirely sure about what’s going happen to Farrar Road after Bangor City move out. At first we heard it was going to be shops, then it was a bowling alley, then more shops, then it was ASDA, now we’re not sure.

The self-imposed impotency (or thick-headedness if you’re being charitable) of the city council doesn’t fill people with much comfort. In a small university city they have allowed the stock of private student accommodation to mushroom. They have also allowed the city’s cinema and main hotel to be replaced with student accommodation. There are fears that Farrar Road will also end up this way. There has been no mention of social housing unfortunately from the developers.

Secondly, there is disquiet at what the developers/builders are giving us, (even though we are tied to the contract signed a decade ago so cannot change this). The developers/builders are getting a lot out of the deal we feel that there should be some good will from the developers/builders. They may not be obliged to help us out but morally they owe us a football ground worthy of the Bangor City’s stature in Welsh football. There are several reasons why we are owed good will.

– We are moving from a city centre location to the very edge of the city.
– The developers are getting the better end of the deal.
– We have suffered a decade of lost potential

The last point is the main point. If the move had happened a decade ago, things would now be different;

– We would have the ground as we wanted it by now.
– We would have had an income generating clubhouse (something we haven’t had for donkey’s years) – that’s a decade of potential income lost.
– We haven’t played a proper home fixture in Europe since 1998 (we’ve played in Rhyl and Wrexham)
– We may have lost potential Wales matches (u17, u19, u21, womens)

It would not take much for the good will to be honoured. A construction company should be able to throw up an extra three stands quite easily, it would be a mere gesture on their behalf.

Having said all that the community aspect of the new ground is exciting, we have even planned to build our own terrace if all else fails.

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