Surrey CCC is working up development plans which would make the Kia Oval the largest cricket stadium in the UK with a capacity of 40,000.
The club aims to complete the project in time for the Ashes in 2023, with the centrepiece being a replacement for the Bedser Stand which could add up to 8,000 seats – as well as an enlargement of the existing OCS Stand. Surrey CCC Chairman Richard Thompson said:
The time is now right for cricket to think on a bigger scale. We need to build on this success and have a ground that can satisfy the unprecedented demand we have created.
Questioned on the BBC’s Test Match Special, Thompson said that getting to 40,000 would cost £50m. He explained the financing as £15m-£20m from bonds sold to the public, plus bank lending and investment from stakeholders.
We are not adding corporate this time, it’s a different profile and we’ll need to fill the ground regularly to justify the investment.
The Blast is growing exponentially for us, we may become a host ground for the new city-based tournament in 2020 and there is no dilution of demand for Test cricket, which is now centring on cities. The pipeline is strong.
Surrey already get 23,500 for Friday evening games and have sold out the Blast games against south-east rivals Middlesex and Kent. The ground currently has a capacity of 25,500, having already increased permanent capacity by 3,000 over recent years.
Looking six years ahead, the management can see the demand and is trying to stay one step ahead of Lord’s and London Stadium. A 40,000 capacity Oval would take the wind out of the sales of London Stadium, which has a similar capacity for cricket.
The Club already has planning permission for a large development next to the Pavilion, 1 Oval Square, which is also able to incorporate additional capacity and facilities. Work could begin at the end of 2019, following on from the ICC Cricket World Cup, in which The Oval will host the opening game, and the next home Ashes series.
Richard Gould, Surrey CCC Chief Executive, explained that the Club is ideally placed to undertake this ambitious scheme.
Our business has taken off over the last five years and our reserves have quadrupled in size along with significantly higher profits.
This has largely been driven through T20 cricket and an increase in our non-matchday business, but sales for international cricket also remain very strong. Most of our major games now sell out, either for county cricket or international cricket, and we need more seats to meet demand.
The Kia Oval is a very friendly place to visit and with our central London location we enjoy the best transport infrastructure of any stadium in the country.
We have a very large and loyal following of over 350,000 active cricket supporters spread across the south of England, and are also starting to see the benefits of the Battersea Nine Elms expansion which is delivering another 21,000 homes to our immediate neighbourhood and adding to the population of London, which already stands at 8.6m people.
The Club has released a masterplan image which has provided the inspiration for the development of the ground project in recent years, and will act as the design template for future projects.
We have already received a positive response from early discussions with the ECB and our landlord, the Duchy of Cornwall. We will now work up more detailed proposals and financial models to share with our wider group of stakeholders.