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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Darlington FC’s stadium dreams face hurdles amid relegation battle

The Quakers announced ambitious plans to leave Blackwell Meadows

Darlington Football Club’s plans to build a new stadium have faced further delays due to this season’s relegation battle and one of the desired site’s being sold to a different developer.

In May 2022, the Quakers announced ambitious plans to leave Blackwell Meadows and relocate to a purpose-built site elsewhere in the town. The new site would include additional sports, retail and hospitality facilities and have a capacity between 5,000 and 8,000.

It was initially planned to be built in time for the 2024-25 season but the plans have been repeatedly delayed.

Reflecting on how the club’s performance on the pitch has affected progress with the ground, chief executive David Johnston told the club’s website: “It’s quite complex, it’s still ongoing. It’s frustrating for me.

In the address to supporters after securing survival in the National League North, he added: “I have to be honest I backed off a little bit as we were fighting a relegation battle. Conversations were still ongoing but I wasn’t pushing as fast as I could because I’m not going to commit to something if we’re playing in the league below.”

Mr Johnston revealed that one site identified by the club, on land within the large-scale Skerningham development, was purchased by a different company. Land at Faverdale is understood to be one of the other options, while other sites are also being explored.

“The company we were talking to about purchasing the land didn’t get it,” he said. “The other site is still available, but there’s also a third option and we do have a fourth option.”

Training facilities which will be rented out to clubs, schools and the community are also set to be included to help provide a sustainable and regular income stream for the Quakers, which became fan-owned in 2012.

The chief executive reiterated the need for the club to work with developers and receive outside investment to drive the plans forward. That includes receiving support to fund the capital costs involved with the project, which include building roads and infrastructure.

Similar stadiums throughout the National League including AFC Fylde and Boston United’s have been identified as inspiration.

“We have schemes drawn out, we know what the schemes look like. You’ve then got to look at the non-football income that comes in to support those schemes to attract the developer.”

Further meetings with developers are planned over the coming weeks but Mr Johnston admitted he is struggling to fully focus on the project.

He said: “The biggest problem we’ve got is I dont have the time. I love what I’m doing with the club but the club is suffering because they’re not getting my full time attention. This needs to be a full time role.”

Establishing new subcommittees to help progress the development were also suggested. “We will pick it up again and start moving it forward,” Johnston added.

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