A recent frank and promising meeting of Bristol Rovers FC directors with a group of local residents, bodes well for further dialogue between the club and its neighbours. The meeting was arranged by Friends of the Memorial Ground (FOMG), to discuss the intention of Dwane Sports Ltd, who are the owners of Bristol Rovers, to rebuild the Memorial Stadium.
The two key ‘take-aways’ were that:
- Dwane Sports are considering building a new stadium with a capacity of about 17,000 to 20,000 (which is 5,000-8,000 more than the current capacity)
- the new stadium would be self-funded.
We discussed revenue stream ideas to complement the football-related business, such as a gym, a school, a medical centre, conference/wedding reception rooms, etc – facilities available to all and not only on match days. FOMG would support a community stadium, which is really beneficial to the neighbourhood, and is fitting, given the war memorial status of the sport ground and its residential setting. Rovers are seeking further suggestions from the community and fans, such as IT/office hubs, a micro-brewery/bakery, etc.
In a spirit of co-operation and a shared interest in a sustainable/successful future for the stadium, FOMG emphasised that a wide range of creative solutions to match day traffic and parking would be necessary. The club recognises that research into fans’ travel patterns was needed. Rovers are putting up bicycle stands. We discussed other options, including providing incentives to fans to cycle or walk to matches, shuttle buses to Kingswood, Easton, Temple Meads, etc, a deal with local bus companies, pooling resources and solutions with the Bristol County Ground (Gloucestershire County Cricket Club), park & ride, park & stride, car sharing, and the setting up of a match-day-only residents parking zone.
The Memorial Ground is to be rededicated to commemorate Bristol rugby players killed in wars since 1945. Bristol Rugby Former Players are applying for funding to professionally restore the listed entrance gates. FOMG and Rovers are to explore the possibility of re-planting the Scots pines around the ground’s perimeter, where these are now missing.
We understand that the football club is keen to make more of its unique sporting heritage, and its historical ground, which will celebrate its centenary in four years time. As the stadium redevelopment plans evolve, further dialogue between the club and local residents – and a thorough community consultation – are envisaged. The Bishopston Society has kindly offered to facilitate this.