HEARTS have ordered a new detailed study into building a “community stadium” – but this time without the help of taxpayers’ money.
The Evening News can reveal that Hearts are to carry out a further study into the plans to move away from Tynecastle, which will include looking in depth at possible sites for a new stadium.
An initial £30,000 consultants’ report that was jointly funded by the city council and the Gorgie club found that the redevelopment of Tynecastle Stadium was “not a viable option” and that the council should consider an “active role” in developing a replacement community stadium.
The new study will look to identify “if and how” a community stadium can be developed, including who would own and operate it, which uses would be within it, what funding would be needed and which sites would be suitable.
One option to be examined is whether the development could be linked to separate council-backed plans for a major 12,000-capacity concert arena next to Edinburgh Airport.
It has also emerged that Hearts are willing to swap the land that Tynecastle already sits on for any potential development site that is owned by the council or private landowners.
That again raises the prospect of council-owned land at Sighthill or Hermiston Gait becoming a possible location for the new stadium, while land owned by Sir David Murray in west Edinburgh and the “Edinburgh International” site next to Edinburgh Airport could also be seen as strong possibilities.
A new council report set to be published today has confirmed the council could still get involved in developing the stadium, but only if it was shown to be “economically viable and financially self-sustaining”.
But the city’s economic development leader, Councillor Tom Buchanan, insisted that the council would not get involved with the club in its current circumstances, when it has failed to pay wages due to many of its first-team stars.
Dave Anderson, the council’s director of city development, said: “Hearts will now carry out a more detailed study into the viability and deliverability of a community stadium. The council will provide appropriate officer support to this study as it would with any study of this kind but will not provide any further financial contribution.”
Today’s report confirms that property experts have judged there will be “limited interest” in Tynecastle from retail, office and upmarket residential developers, and that the only likely uses are student flats, “light industrial” and affordable housing.
It also warns of the negative impact that any Hearts move would have on the Gorgie/Dalry area and confirms that consultants have said that the need for a concert arena, a new Hearts ground and a new home for Edinburgh Rugby “lends support” to the creation of a community stadium.
Hearts are looking for sites of around 12-16 acres for a standalone stadium or 50-60 acres for a wider development, but any council participation would be reliant on the site being “economically viable and self-sustaining”.
Mr Anderson said: “The promoters of any such scheme would therefore need to clearly demonstrate these criteria have been met if there is to be any council involvement.”
Cllr Buchanan said: “It is for Hearts to come to their own decisions. At the moment, the council does not view its involvement as going further than [today’s] report. If Hearts go further forward they would have to establish a use that is economically sustainable. Any council involvement would only be around land discussions.
“One of the problems for Hearts is they are between a rock and a hard place. A council would not get involved with an organisation that is not currently paying its staff.”