Frustrated fans have welcomed Pompey's latest stadium plans but have told the club: Just get on with it.
After years of getting supporters excited about ambitious stadium schemes at various new sites, Pompey yesterday announced a redevelopment at Fratton Park.
The plans – almost identical to those first announced by former Pompey chairman Milan Mandaric in 2003 – will see the pitch turned round and stands rebuilt in order to eventually create a 30,000-seater stadium.
Mandaric's plan was ditched in 2005 after protests from fans in the North Stand, who would have had to sit 30 yards from the pitch for a season as the stadium was redeveloped.
But now the club sees rebuilding Fratton as the best option of increasing capacity in the short term. It said several factors including the credit crunch meant it could not now press ahead with its proposed 36,000-seater stadium at Horsea Island.
Portsmouth FC executive chairman Peter Storrie last night told fans the club remained committed to a new stadium at Horsea Island, but confirmed the club plans to start work on expanding Fratton Park in November.
If the Horsea Island plan happens at all it will not be until at least 2018 – or even as late as 2022 to tally with an FA Cup bid to host the World Cup.
At a fans' forum last night Mr Storrie said: 'This will give us a good extra stream of money and let more people see Portsmouth play at Fratton Park.
'We're committed to build a new stadium at Horsea but that will be later now, because the club has no money and in the current climate we have very little chance of it being part-financed by development companies.'
Mr Storrie told the 200 Pompey fans at the forum that the plans to rotate the pitch 90 degrees and rebuild the North Stand, East Stand and parts of the Fratton End, would cost 22m – the majority of which would be funded by a supermarket on site.
He said: 'Plans we agreed with Portsmouth City Council five years ago were granted with a 600 unit residential development underpinning the final cost. In this climate, no-one will step forward to build something like that.
'Instead, we will have a supermarket on site, which will cover 70 per cent of the costs.'
Fan Paul Read, of Waterlooville, said: 'I've had a season ticket since the 1960s and I've heard a lot about new grounds and redevelopments in the past. Fratton Park needs it. It's the worst ground in the top two divisions and the sooner that changes the better.'
Portsmouth regular Dominic Curzon said: 'It's the right choice and I hope it happens. There's been a lot of talk in the past about plans like this and I'll believe it when I see it. But it's what we need now.'
And season-ticket holder Darren Cane, 47, said: 'This was talked about 15 years ago, so I won't believe it until it's set in stone. If they'd done this when they said we'd already be in a much better stadium. From that point of view it's a joke and same old Pompey.
'But hope springs eternal. I'd like to see it in my lifetime.'
Portsmouth City Council's leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson said: 'It's disappointing that Horsea is on hold, though we hope if the club can finance both the Fratton Park redevelopment and a new ground it will still happen, but the important thing is to get a decent stadium for the club, so it can sell more tickets and its finances improve.'
THE BIG IDEA
Pompey's stadium plans aim to increase the ground's capacity by a third.
Executive chairman Peter Storrie, pictured, has told fans he hoped for planning permission by the end of the summer, and for work to start in November. That will involve:
Replacing the existing North Stand with a new stand already built behind it, and filling in the 'corners' at the stand's East and West ends, which would raise the stadium's capacity to 25,000.
During the summer of 2010, rotating the pitch 90 degrees, so the play would run north-south, rather than east-west as at present.
Rebuilding the East Stand and expand the Fratton End, delivering a 30,000 capacity by the start of the 2011/12 season.
The South Stand would also receive 'improvement' work, and would become the ground's new away end.
The projected cost of the project is 22m, with 70 per cent financed by a supermarket on site and the remaining money provided by banks.
The club intends to move to Horsea Island 'in line with the Football Association's current bid for the World Cup in either 2018 or 2022' and hopes to submit planning applications within the next two years. If it moves, the 7.5-acre Fratton Park site would be sold of for residential development.
Also see: Pompey announce new stadium plan at Fratton Park
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