HEARTS chiefs are pleading for a stay of execution before a match-day car park is sold off to developers.
The Gorgie club is pressing city leaders to be allowed continued access to around 250 parking bays at the former Tynecastle High School site until October 5 when their final home game for a month will be played.
It is hoped the cash-strapped club can use the four-week break to draft a contingency plan for parking and open dialogue with would-be developers over plans to share the site on match days.
The News previously reported that the city spends £80,000 per year maintaining the former school building – part of which has listed status – that Hearts have employed on match days for the last 30 years. A prospective buyer has approached the council with a view to buying the McLeod Street site and it is understood an offer has been received prompting the council to demand the club returns its keys.
City chiefs relented and agreed to allow access to the car park for the club’s Scottish League Cup tie against Queen of the South last night and the Scottish Premier League fixture with Dundee United on Saturday but no plans have yet been drawn for future matches.
It is understood the interested party is not a housing developer fuelling hopes a deal could be thrashed out to sub-let the car park on match days.
A club source said talks would be held to investigate whether the current arrangement can be maintained.
They added that decanting match-day vehicles into the surrounding residential areas would create huge traffic problems and stressed that Hearts players having to walk along Gorgie Road after matches would cause “no end of hassle”.
Former Hearts chairman George Foulkes said he believed an agreement would be found. He said: “I think there is a reasonable chance that the people who buy it will allow the temporary arrangement to continue until such time when they start developing it.
“Obviously, depending on what kind of development it is, there could be scope for a longer-term agreement.”
And he added: “I think four weeks will be enough time to find a solution because the council is sympathetic and willing to come to an understanding.”
A council spokeswoman said they would work with the club and police to find a “longer -term solution”.
She said: “In our discussions with the club, all factors will be taken into consideration including local traffic difficulties that the new arrangement will present.”
A Hearts spokesman said they were pleased the council agreed to keep the status quo in place for their home game this weekend, and added: “We face another huge league game seven days after that when we play host to St Mirren.
“This is our last home game until November 2 and in an ideal world we will be able to continue using the car park until then, after which we will have a significant period of time to come to a longer-term solution.”
Club paid council £525 for each use
FOOTBALL players, match officials, VIP guests and disabled fans have been parking within the former Tynecastle High School site for the last 30 years – with the Gorgie Club paying the city £525 a match for the privilege.
It is understood Blue Badge holders paid a “nominal fee” – around £40 per season – to use the facility and club chiefs are now working on a contingency plan in case no solution is found. Prior to last night’s League Cup tie with Queen of the South, it is understood plans had been drawn up for players to make their way in a car pool.
A site called Gerrards Yard, behind the Wheatfield Stand, was earmarked for match officials but not required.