Sunderland AFC’s plans to create a fans village at the Stadium of Light have proved a winner.
Councillors last night recommended a plan for the 1,800 sqm Fanzone, which will have a capacity of up to 6,000 people, and feature bar and food outlets, a big screen showing highlights and a kids activity zone, including a mini-football pitch.
SAFC chiefs plan to have the site, located at the south east corner of the stadium, ready for the start of the new season. It will be open three hours before kick-off and for an hour after final whistle, with both home and visiting fans welcome in a bid to create a friendly, family atmosphere.
SAFC’s commercial director, Gary Hutchinson, said: “The Fanzone is an exciting development for the club and since we announced our intention to create this special area for supporters we have had fantastic feedback from them about the proposals.
“Along with work to improve the areas surrounding the stadium, we hope that the Fanzone will help to enhance the whole matchday experience for supporters.”--
A planning application was discussed by Sunderland City Council’s Development Control (North Sunderland) Sub-Committee.
Speaking at the meeting, Coun Stuart Porthouse said: “It looks quite good actually. I think it is a good idea.
“It will be interesting to see how it does perform.”
Coun Richard Bell said fan zones had been very successful in the United States at American Football games.
Councillors at the meeting heard that the Fanzone plan at the Stadium of Light will be similar to one already run by fellow Premier League club Manchester City.
Coun Julia Jackson, chairman of the cub-committee, said: “It is somewhere for people to meet family members, to shelter and have a drink before going into the stadium should there be inclement weather.”
An objection to the plan was submitted by the owner of the Stadium Delight cafe, on the opposite side of Millennium Way, who feared the development would screen the business from potential customers.
Concern about a lack of toilet facilities in the fan village was also raised by Coun Rosalind Copeland.
It is expected crowds of about 3,500 will use the fan village, although it will have a maximum capacity of 6,000.
It will be staffed by around 50 SAFC employees, with up to 20 staffing the kiosks and up to 30 staffing other areas, such as the kids activity zone. It will also be fully monitored by the football club’s own team of stewards.
As it is located within the Stadium of Light’s existing licensed area it allows for alcoholic drinks to be served.”
The Fanzone will also include seating and covered areas as well as live music featuring local music talent.
Other attractions will include radio roadshows, competitions and appearances from former and current players.