‘The Dons’ to play at ‘The Hoops’ home



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AFC Wimbledon update - August 2020 Image: AFC Wimbledon

As construction work on their new home ground Plough Lane Stadium continues, AFC Wimbledon is to begin the new English Football League (EFL) season at QPR’s stadium in London.

‘The Dons’ will play at the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium – home ground of London-based football team, Queens Park Rangers (QPR). Located in Shepherd’s Bush in the borough of Hammersmith and Fulham in London, the stadium has been home to ‘The Hoops’ since 1917 with the current capacity standing at 18,439.

QPR and AFC Wimbledon have confirmed a temporary groundshare agreement. ‘The Dons’ will begin their 2020-21 campaign playing at QPR’s stadium in mid-September, having their first fixtures scheduled away from home.

Value of the partnership has not been divulged as yet but it will last at least until late October, when the new Plough Lane Stadium is ready in its first phase. Plough Lane Stadium was supposed to go on stream during the summer, but with coronavirus baring its fangs the world over and causing considerable harm to the UK too, the schedule has got disrupted and the ground is expected to be handed over in its initial form on October 25th.

AFC Wimbledon is an English professional football club, based in Merton, London, which has played in League One, the third tier of the English football league system, since winning promotion in 2016. The club’s home stadium is Plough Lane.

Plough Lane is a stadium in Wimbledon, southwest London, which is currently under construction. Once built, it will be the home of AFC Wimbledon.

The second-tier League One team will switch to the Championship side’s 18,500-capacity Loftus Road (officially the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium) for at least the first month of the new campaign. With completion still on schedule for October 25th, the club is still hoping to play its first match at its new 9,000-capacity Plough Lane Stadium shortly afterwards.

While there is no doubt about the fact that the football season will begin on September 5th with EFL Trophy games played behind closed doors, the understanding between the two clubs does permit Wimbledon to welcome limited capacity crowds if permitted.

Commented Joe Palmer, AFC Wimbledon’s chief, “We’re very grateful to QPR for giving us the opportunity to share their ground for the start of the season and also to the EFL for their understanding during this difficult period.”

AFC Wimbledon has played at Cherry Red Records Stadium in Kingston upon Thames since the club was formed by supporters of Wimbledon FC in 2002. The fans acted following Wimbledon FC’s controversial move to Milton Keynes, where it was subsequently renamed MK Dons.

The £30m Plough Lane Stadium had been targeted to open ahead of the 2020-21 seasons, but construction and pecuniary problems led to its debut being pushed back. AFC Wimbledon is seeking to return to Plough Lane in south-west London, about 250 yards from where the club’s original incarnation played until 1991.

Looking forward to the upcoming move, Palmer stated, “The construction works are proceeding well, but with the uncertainty of the COVID situation, we wanted to give ourselves some more breathing space to complete the works and required test events before playing our first match at Plough Lane.”

“It’s going to be an incredible moment in the club’s history and we wanted to make sure that we’re further down the road than where we would have been for the start of the season, to ensure it matches the occasion,” Palmer added.

The new facility could be expanded to 20,000 by filling in all four corners to create a continuous bowl. The design has been lent by KSS Group with Buckingham Group Contracting responsible for the construction.

Plough Lane construction is entering its final stages these days, both at the permanent West stand and at the temporary sections, which should eventually be replaced by larger and long-term structures.
 

Plough Lane Stadium

In 2013, AFC Wimbledon joined hands with Galliard Homes, a major residential development company expected to provide much of the capital to fund the new stadium. In return, Wimbledon’s new home brings a community value to the 600 apartments that would encircle it in three separate buildings. Together, the two created a proposal for the 5.1 hectare site’s redevelopment.

Importantly, Wimbledon would only get one permanent stand within the first phase – the main one in the West. Together with skyboxes and other commercial facilities the stadium would facilitate revenue increase, while three temporary stands should bring capacity up to 9,000 for starters.

Later, should there be a demand, expansion would be possible within the same masterplan, also including floodlight masts from the first phase. With an entire bowl of single-tiered seating the arena’s capacity might reach 20,000.

Final decision on preferred rehabilitation bid was to be taken in Spring 2015. However, ‘The Dons’ had to face several constraints and numerous challenges during the process which caused yawning delays. Despite Wimbledon having won the right to occupy the site with their stadium, delays caused groundbreaking to slip from 2015 to 2019.

When the stadium is finally delivered, only the four-floor main grandstand will be built as a permanent structure, strengthened with 400 piles inserted into the ground. The remaining three sides would first be delivered as temporary structures, to be replaced by larger permanent sections later.

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