Argyle unveils £150m plan for Home Park, including shopping plaza and ice rink
ARGYLE'S Home Park stadium could be part of a £150million development in Central Park including shops, a cinema and an hotel.
The proposals, seen exclusively by The Herald, are part of a major new planning application which will go to Plymouth City Council planners in the autumn.
DEVELOPMENT PLANS: Plymouth Argyle executive director Keith Todd and Chris Lowe from Rose Project Services in front of the Life Centre and Plymouth Argyle's Home Park Stadium
GRANDSTAND: An artist's impression of the proposed new stadium
VISION: Argyle executive director Keith Todd
Starting today, local people are being given a chance to have their say on the plans, which include a 4,000-seat indoor arena and exhibition hall.
The exhibition centre would double as an ice rink suitable for ice hockey.
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The arena would include bars and restaurants, overlooking a piazza, and would host music events. With the exhibition hall, it could operate as a convention centre.
The American entertainment giant AEG, which owns the O2 Arena in London, has already expressed interest in being involved.
The massive development would help to fund development of Argyle's stadium in time for the 2018 Fifa World Cup, Argyle's executive director Keith Todd toldThe Herald.
The club will have to increase the stadium capacity to 43,000 if it hopes to host World Cup games in 2018.
"Without the other developments it would be very difficult to achieve the stadium in its entirety," Mr Todd said.
A detailed planning application for the extended stadium will go to the planners in October, alongside an outline planning application for the rest of the development.
Mr Todd hopes to have approval in time to influence the decision by Fifa on whether England can host the 2018 World Cup.
Plymouth is one of 12 English cities in the running to host games — if England beats off competition to be the host country.
"The feedback we've been getting is that our stadium design stands out from all the other new World Cup stadium plans," Mr Todd said.
The development would create a busy plaza around the stadium, the arena and the new Life Centre, now being built in Central Park.
In the centre of the plaza would be a sports bar, with offices above it.
Plans for 5,500 square metres of retail space on the existing park and ride are likely to prove controversial.
Project manager Chris Lowe of Rose Project Services denied that the retail space shown on the plan would be taken over by a supermarket.
"We may well be looking for elements of food, but it is leisure-related retail," Mr Lowe said. "I think the retail aspect will be the element people talk about long and hard, but at the end of the day what's needed is needed."
Most of the development would be on land already earmarked in the Central Park area action plan for creation of a 'citywide and regional facility of sporting recreation and leisure'.
The area action plan has been approved by a government inspector and planners would find it difficult to refuse schemes that abide by it.
Mr Todd admitted that his scheme would involve 'some land swaps' with the city council.
The most important of these could involve handing over Argyle's training pitches to the north of the stadium. The Argyle team has been doing it's pre-season training at UCP Marjon this year.
The company wants to take over land now used as a parks department depot on Outland Road, where it would build a cinema and three-star hotel.
To the south of the development would be three blocks of student flats and a medical centre.
The flats for about 670 students would be used in the summer for people attending sports-related events.
Mr Lowe said: "This is about something much longer term than the World Cup. We are trying to get it out to as many people as possible."
Mr Todd said: "The idea is to create a regional sports and leisure destination.
"The original 1928 plan for the park aimed to get people to visit it. In the 21st century you need much more than fields and picnic tables.
"Our vision is that people would come for the day and do a variety of things."
He said the views of the public and other stakeholders would be taken into account in the final scheme that goes to the planners in October. Where possible, the scheme would be altered to reflect local views.
The loss of green space is sure to anger groups like the Friends of Central Park, who are being shown the plans today. The exhibition hall and student accommodation would be built partly on Cottage Field, on what are now playing fields.
Mr Todd said he hoped work could start at the end of May or early June next year.
The stadium needs to be completed at least a year ahead of the World Cup.
He said the development would create up to 700 construction jobs, and once all elements are open, the equivalent of 1,000 permanent jobs throughout the site.
The first phase of the stadium, the student accommodation and hotel would be the first buildings to go up.
In April the Argyle board approved a proposal to sell the Pilgrims' stadium to a new company called the Home Park Properties Ltd, which is responsible for the massive new development now planned. Home Park Properties and Plymouth Argyle Football Club are wholly-owned subsidiaries of Plymouth Argyle Football Company (Holdings).
Mr Todd said the company structure was needed because it was difficult to get funding on this scale inside a football club.
"Having a vibrant, successful football club is incredibly important to the success of this destination. This is mutually good for the club as well as the city.
The plans go on show to the public in Argyle's Pyramid Suite from 10am to 5pm tomorrow. The exhibition will remain open until Monday.