Details emerge of new Oxford stadium



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Oxford United stadium update February 2024 Image: Oxford United

Oxford United is continuing work towards submission of a full planning application for its proposed new 16,000 seat stadium, which will include 25% safe standing spaces.

As well as hosting the men’s team, which currently plays at the 12,500 seat Kassam Stadium, the new venue in Kidlington would also house the women’s team.

The EFL League One club said its vision is to create a sustainable sports, entertainment and lifestyle landmark in Oxfordshire which is locally loved and internationally recognised.

The club said the stadium would set the benchmark for community benefit, environmental performance and commercial innovation and put the visitor experience at the heart of everything it does.

Oxford United’s current agreement to play at the Kassam Stadium comes to an end in 2026 and so they have to find a new home. This has led to plans for the 16,000-capacity stadium and complex within a single building.

Last year Oxfordshire County Council agreed a deal in principle to lease the club an area of land known as ‘The Triangle’ in Kidlington to build the stadium.

The club said the economic benefits would be huge, with almost 1,000 jobs created and 20 apprenticeships, whilst generating circa £32 million for the local economy per year. It would also deliver improved infrastructure including better transport services, a 180-bed hotel, restaurant, conference centre, health and wellbeing space, a gym and community plaza.

The stadium would be a bowl shape with a low roof designed to keep the atmosphere in, which will significantly transform matchdays whilst minimising any noise and light pollution. That, along with providing rail seats for safe standing in 25% of the stadium, as well as fantastic food and drink options, means the venue would be a big hit with fans.

The public consultation for the new stadium in Kidlington saw significant engagement and the feedback received is being worked through in preparation for submitting the full planning application.

Jon Clarke, Oxford United’s Development Director, answered a number of questions on key elements of the project.
 
Q: Connectivity and access have been one of the key considerations during the public consultation, what measures are being considered?

The stadium will have better links to public transport and create new connections for the wider community. This will include a new east to west pedestrian and cycle route through the stadium site and improved foot and cycleway links along Oxford Road to Oxford Parkway Railway Station and Park & Ride site.

Feasibility studies have concluded that over time 90% of supporters coming to the new stadium will be able to arrive via active travel. We are working on additional measures to further enhance connectivity, including a pedestrian bridge over Oxford Road. We have made a commitment for the bridge to be fully explored and our project team is looking at this as we speak.

Alongside this, we’ve worked extensively with Oxfordshire County Council’s Highways team to establish a traffic management plan that will limit matchday impact on the local area. Not many stadiums are able to boast such excellent public transport links given Oxford Parkway is just a few hundred metres from the site. The proposed stadium would therefore offer significantly higher levels of sustainable travel than most UK clubs are able to.
 
Q: What are the key benefits to the region of the new stadium?

It would be so much more than just a stadium in Oxfordshire, it would provide the whole county with a leisure, conference and social hub that the region needs and deserves. Most people we have spoken to agree the county needs a world-class conference and leisure space we can be proud of.

A new stadium will also be a game-changer for what Oxford United can do for the community. It will allow us to provide education and community-based programmes to help people develop skills and improve their lives. We are set to launch our community pledge this month, which would deliver extensive benefits to residents, if the stadium goes ahead.
 
Q: The women’s game has grown in the UK; how will the stadium improve inclusivity?

Currently Oxford United’s Women’s team does not play at the Kassam Stadium. Having a venue owned by the club would enable them to play their matches at a stadium they can also call home and further grow their fanbase.

A modern, newly constructed stadium also allows us to cater to a far wider proportion of our supporters. Traditional football stadiums were designed with a male dominant fanbase in mind, and little understanding of inclusivity and accessibility needs.

With this in mind we have included a more balanced split in the provision of facilities, designed a state-of-the-art sensory room and included over 130 disabled viewing positions at various locations within the stadium which is three times the number at the Kassam Stadium.
 
Q: Sustainability is an important factor for our community, how will the stadium positively help?

This is an element we have placed a real emphasis on in our design and the new stadium would strongly deliver on all of Oxfordshire County Council’s Strategic Priorities.

The designs include a green barrier between Oxford and Kidlington that protects and enhances the surrounding environment and improves access to nature. Even though we’re talking about building a stadium, the development factors in a significant amount of landscaping, public open green space, a pond and a sensory garden.

The development would improve the biodiversity of the site and would mean the club can actively seek to become net zero by 2040. We have tasked our project team to deliver one of the most sustainable mid-sized stadium’s in the country and technologies such as solar power and ground source heat pumps, smart material choices for thermal efficiency and water storage and recycling systems are all part of that plan.
 
Q: What part of the project are you personally most excited about?

This is a chance to be part of history by creating a lasting legacy for Oxford United and for Oxfordshire. So much work has gone on behind the scenes and there are so many elements of the design which are truly spectacular and very exciting.

However, the part I’ll be most proud of if this project gets the green light is the fact that we’re not just building a stadium, we’re creating a destination that the local community can benefit from. Nothing encapsulates that better than the outdoor plaza we have planned.

It is designed to be accessible for all and will provide an open area, much like a traditional public square, where people can come together to soak up the matchday atmosphere or take part in community activities such as farmers’ markets, showcases for local musicians, art exhibitions, exercise classes or just to sit down and relax.
 
Q: How important is the new stadium to Oxford United?

The club has always been clear, it must move to a new home. The new stadium is critical to the future of an Oxfordshire institution that has been around for over 130 years. The club’s shareholders are committed to the development, but we now need support from key stakeholders to complete the land lease and proceed to safeguard the club while providing an incredible venue everyone can enjoy.

It’s critically important to the club, but I believe it’s also vitally important to the region, not just for the numerous health and economic benefits the club delivers to the county, but also because Oxfordshire needs first-class leisure and conference facilities to be proud of.

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