Premier League Palace need a sporting hub fit for the club


By - Thursday 4th July, 2013

Tom Lickley explains why Palace’s aging stadium needs a revamp, and assesses the viability of redevelopment


Selhurst Park and the surrounding footprint of a potential new venue. Image from Google Maps.

In my previous article on Selhurst Park, I came to the conclusion that Croydon and Selhurst Park can work in tandem to provide a fantastic, multifunctional new entertainment venue. This would improve both the image of the town and Crystal Palace FC. This time, I assess just how viable redevelopment is.

So, how viable is Selhurst Park in terms of becoming an open-air music venue? Croydon Council would be the deciding factor in this respect, following on from guidance by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health. Obviously, given Selhurst Park is in a highly built up area, there will be restrictions. However, firstly it must be noted that at various evenings during the football season, there is already noise from Palace matches – whilst not to the same level as a music concert would be, this still includes large crowd noise up until as late as 10pm and loud music for goals and post-match.

If Palace is serious about Selhurst becoming a music venue, then acoustic measures could be built into the stadium, which keeps music absorbed into the ground as much as possible – of course, this would also benefit football match noise

Not only this, but in bygone years Selhurst has hosted music concerts – artists such as Status Quo and Peter Gabriel amongst others – up to the 1990s. Selhurst even hosted the Sunsplash Festival in the 1980s. So, it would not be unprecedented.

The ‘Code of Practice on Environmental Noise Control at Concerts’ suggests decibel level should not exceed 75 decibels over a 15 minute period (on average) at more than three concerts per years. A curfew is also imposed, with music not taking place outside of the hours of 9am to 11pm. This is certainly not unreasonable given the proximity of nearby houses. If Palace is serious about Selhurst becoming a music venue, then acoustic measures could be built into the stadium, which keeps music absorbed into the ground as much as possible – of course, this would also benefit football match noise.

Questions may also be asked as to how people would get to and leave the venue. However, given that every other weekend the stadium will play host to at least 25,000 football fans next year, this should not be an issue – and for those who have attended a sporting or music event at Twickenham or Wembley for example, issues of getting away from Selhurst would pale in comparison.

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The Main Stand at Selhurst Park. Photo by Patrick. Image used under Creative Commons License.

Given the proximity of central London, Croydon, and Gatwick, is a conference centre/exhibition hall a realistic proposition for this part of south London? Undoubtedly, some clever marketing would have to be engaged here. Lack of car parking space means the venue would be heavily reliant on public transport, meaning very high-end/high capacity events would perhaps be out of the question.

However, niche events and smaller businesses, or networks, could certainly embrace the smaller, but modern and prestigious venue. Of course, Selhurst Park does host meetings and conferences, but a new or upgraded venue would allow greater capacity and a more marketable environment. With regards to the site of location, the space behind the Croydon Advertiser Family Stand or a new Main stand would be perfect locations (see below).

The stand has the potential to be the club’s biggest money spinner

How can the stadium itself be improved? At present, the capacity of Selhurst officially stands at 26,309, although due to modifications in recent years the actual capacity is most likely less. Given the club sold out 33,000 tickets to Wembley for the playoff final against Watford comfortably in two and a half days, with many missing out, one would expect that Palace could comfortably host a 35,000 seater stadium as an established Premier League side – perhaps even greater given the club’s enormous catchment area.

Let’s break it down, stand by stand. The oldest, and perhaps most in need of redevelopment, is the club’s Main Stand. The stand has the potential to be the club’s biggest money spinner, hosting the hospitality suites commonplace across Premier League stadiums. How can it be replaced?

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The Arthur Wait Stand. Photo by Patrick. Image used under Creative Commons License.

The club at various points in its recent history has actually held planning permission for a replacement Main Stand. Former chairman Ron Noades applied successfully to replace the stand with a three-quarter length stand, which Palace’s previous chairman Simon Jordan renewed. By all means, however, this would not be the perfect solution.

Palace could build a modern stand of similar height and capacity to the current Main Stand, but with modern amenities. A smaller stand as a Main Stand need not be an issue; even the largest club stadium in England, Old Trafford, has a relatively small main stand constricted by a railway line. Alternatively, but more costly, they could acquire the houses in Wooderson Close and knock them down to build a stand on the same height of the Holmesdale Road.

The Croydon Advertiser Family Stand is the smallest stand at Selhurst Park

The Arthur Wait is perhaps the easiest to replace, given that despite its good capacity it barely reaches above street level, minimising impact on residents of Park Road. A stand of similar height, or perhaps even slightly larger, could be built upon the same footprint, but with modern facilities and more acceptable entrances – a good example to follow would be Norwich City’s Jarrold Stand at their Carrow Road home.

The Croydon Advertiser Family Stand is the smallest stand at Selhurst Park, home to the stadium’s executive boxes and the large TV screen which is perched on top. This end of the stadium is also home to the club shop and the box office, both of which are perhaps too small for purpose. Growth is restricted due to the fact that a large Sainsbury’s is built directly behind it.

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The Croydon Advertiser Family Stand at Selhurst Park. Photo by Patrick. Image used under Creative Commons License.

A deal with Sainsbury’s could perhaps see the supermarket moved on to the car park next to the stadium, beneath a new stand or to another location within the stadium. This would allow the large expanse of land on the north side of Selhurst Park to comfortably fit a stand of at least the size of the Holmesdale Road end. There is space for both the club and the supermarket to co-exist, although car park places would suffer (unless put underground, a costly measure). Noades recently revealed that during his time in charge he owned the ‘air-space’ over the stand – that is, there is potential for a second tier above the current, which would perhaps replace the executive boxes if there were a new Main or Arthur Wait Stand.

Similar sized towns and clubs have successfully redeveloped their stadiums

The largest and newest stand at Selhurst is the Holmesdale Road stand, a two-tiered stand built for the start of the 1995-96 season. Generally the most vociferous stand, it is much loved by Palace fans and in least need of refurbishment. There are some problems: the basement is flooded and there are rumours of the stand sinking, so work does need to be done. There is also a lower concourse which has never been connected to the seating area of the stand; greater space utilisation is the order of the day for the south end of the stadium.

It will take a long time to fully redevelop Selhurst Park into the stadium Palace fans and Croydon dream of, and much is dependent on how the team performs on the pitch. Nevertheless, there is cause to be optimistic: similar sized towns and clubs have successfully redeveloped their stadiums or built new developments which have contributed much to the fabric of their respective towns.

Tom Lickley

Tom Lickley

Contributing a variety of roles to the Citizen since early 2013, Tom now focuses upon regeneration, urbanism and real estate writing. After three years spent working within the real estate industry, he now works in regeneration and PR following a move back to Croydon.

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  • Wesley Jordan Anthony Baker

    With the issue of the underground parking for a relocated Sainsbury’s I immediately thought of the Sainsbury’s sava centre (now just known as Sainsbury’s) at Colliers water lane. What do you think of the idea of building the store above the current car park and possibly at the lowest point of the car park so it doesn’t sit too high above the the surrounding buildings. Maybe it could be concrete pillars then the rest just be a steel structure or some sort of quick and easy to construct pre-fab.

    • Tom Lickley

      Sure – I’m all for building the Sainsbury’s above the car park, but this means there will need to be provision for cars elsewhere on the site, and the only option would be to put it underground – which would be tremendously expensive.

      • Wesley Jordan Anthony Baker

        This ones at the Southampton docks but I’ve seen similar car parks on my travels. All along the line between Cov and London there’s two storey car parks and it appears to be mainly metal so comes flat packed. I guess theres pre-cast concrete slabs then a quick layer of tarmac placed on top and a bit of wiring for electrics and boom lol

      • Wesley Jordan Anthony Baker

        ..