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Salford City fans have been celebrating this week after the Reds secured their long term future by announcing approval for construction of a new home ground. The stadium is to be built in the Barton region of Manchester and will seat 22,000 spectators. The Reds current home ground ?The Willows? is 105 years old, and while it contains a great deal of tradition, its facilities have been inadequate for some time.
For club Chairman John Wilkinson the announcement comes after ten years of negotiations with developers and local and national governments to approve the plans for the stadium.
The stadium, to be known as the City of Salford Stadium, will cost 35 million pounds to build and will be incorporated into a 130 million pound complex that will include a four star hotel, casino and shopping centre. The inclusion of this commercial complex has enabled the Reds to produce the capital required to construct the stadium, ensuring the club has full control over how their new home ground is used.
A part of this control, Wilkinson has been able to decide what sporting organisations will lease the facility. Since the stadium?s construction has been announced there has been speculation that the Sale Sharks Rugby Union team would become tenants at the new ground. However this week Wilkinson indicated that the club would prefer it to be solely used as a Rugby League ground in the summer, while the venue could accommodate the Manchester United Reserves team during the winter.
The construction of the new stadium is expected to cement Salford?s long term position in the Superleague. The Reds, who attracted around 4,800 spectators to their home games this season, hope the new stadium will help them double their crowd figures. Salford Football Director Steve Simms also believes the new ground will have a flow on effect to their performance on the field telling the Manchester Evening Standard ?It?s not been easy negotiating with players who have also spoken to Hull and Wigan, who both have new stadia?.
It is hoped the new stadium, and increased crowd support, will expand the clubs catchment area and therefore their junior numbers. The stadium will be completed in time for the 2009 season coinciding with the abolition of Superleague?s promotion/relegation system.