Bradford City today took a giant step forward with the announcement of £5 million plans for a big expansion of their Valley Parade home.

The move will see a huge tier being added to the main Sunwin Stand and the erection of a new corner section, increasing the stadium's capacity by 6,000.

And City chairman Geoffrey Richmond also unveiled equally ambitious plans for a massive increase in the club's merchandising operations which will revolve around a giant club superstore.

He also revealed that a Bantams cafe would be built at the ground which would be open seven days a week.

The scheme has already been given an enthusiastic welcome by local political leaders.

The Bantams, enjoying their first season of top-flight football for 77 years, have lodged their application with Bradford Council.

After securing planning permission work would start in the New Year and the development is expected to be completed by the end of 2000. The new superstore and cafe will be built on an existing car park next to Valley Parade.

Bradford South MP Gerry Sutcliffe said: "This is a positive step to build on the success of the club."

Bradford Council chief executive Ian Stewart, a former professional footballer, added: "This is tremendous news for Bradford and shows the progress being made at the club."

Mr Richmond says the plans are crucial to City's future in their bid to bridge the huge financial gap with their fellow Premiership clubs. At the existing capacity of 18,000 we are inevitably a Cinderella team within the Premier League and at best only an average Division One club.

"But the new capacity would help us bridge the gap. At the present time, we are probably £10 million a year behind the average Premiership club in terms of income generation. This stand would make us probably £5 million behind."

He has stressed that the existing seats in the Sunwin Stand will not be affected by building work. The second tier will include improved executive facilities to cater for an additional 500 guests to the existing 250 who watch each home game at the moment.

As part of the plans, the corner between the Sunwin and Carlsberg Stand will be filled in and house 1,900 seats along with state-of-the art dressing rooms. Richmond said: "Our supporters have long hoped that our players could run out from that corner instead of next to the away supporters."

City also intend building a new 25,000 sq ft Bantams Superstore on the Thorncliffe Road car park to replace the existing 4,500 sq ft club shop and help boost their multi-million pound merchandising revenue.

The planned 8,000 sq ft Bantams cafe will be open to the public seven days a week and will be filled with club memorabilia.

City of the future is here now!

Chairman Geoffrey Richmond believes increasing Bradford City's ground capacity is vital if the club are to continue growing in the new Millennium.

The Bantams have submitted a planning application for a £5 million scheme to build a second tier on the existing Sunwin Stand.

That would boost Valley Parade's capacity from 18,000 to 24,000 and take City another step towards Richmond's vision of playing in front of 30,000 crowds at home.

It is all a far cry from the day Richmond walked into the club in 1994 when City were an average Second Division club playing in front of crowds of just 5,000.

He is adamant City will avoid relegation in their first Premiership season and the new plans certainly suggest confidence in the club's future.

He said: "I am on record as saying that it is my wish to see this club have a ground capable of holding 30,000. This new development will help us advance as a club.

"It will help the image of the club and increase the attractiveness of the club to prospective players, which is obviously very important."

The proposed new stand will feature state-of-the-art media facilities - which Richmond says will be among the "best in the world" - and new executive boxes with seats and balconies.

Richmond says the new development will give supporters, corporate guests and media facilities fit for the new Millennium.

City had huge problems getting planning permission for the new Kop stand last year because houses were so close to the stand. However Richmond said: "We have been professionally advised that this will be a non-contentious application. We are working on an integrated transport policy for the higher capacity.

"This is on-going with the local authority and the transport authorities. We are not just looking at parking but at a much wider strategy. Sunderland employ a park-and-ride scheme and we may look at something similar."

The City chief also hopes that the new 25,000 sq ft Bantams Superstore will help the club boost their merchandising profits.

He said: "At the moment we are a year into a three-year deal with Asics whereby they run the merchandising operation.

"The new sized shop would increase the range of goods available so we would be expecting to increase turnover in the order of £1 million to £3 or £4 million."

The new second tier is obviously central to the future growth of the club and Richmond says that the club are focusing their sights on this scheme.

Despite this a quick glance around Valley Parade shows that the Symphony Stand, despite being built just eight years ago, is the least impressive facility in the ground.

Richmond does not want to look beyond the proposed work on the Sunwin Stand. However his impressive record of getting things done since arriving in Bradford just five-and-a-half years ago suggests that the plans may just be the beginning of the latest chapter in Valley Parade's history.

How the ground has changed down the years

When Bradford City add a second tier to the main stand at Valley Parade, it will mean all four sides of the old ground will have been transformed inside just eight years.

Even the name has changed twice in the 1990s with the Pulse and now the Bradford & Bingley sponsoring City's home, but the proposed development is comfortably the club's biggest step forward of all.

The new £5 million addition to a stand which was built after the tragic fire of 1985 destroyed the old wooden structure, will ensure City have a ground befitting their Premiership status.

The impressive new Kop and Midland Road stands have already transformed City's home in recent years.

But with the new main stand set to be even higher than the existing Kop, the clear message from the Bantams to the rest of the country is one of confidence.

It is all a far cry from the ground's humble origins as the original home of Manningham Rugby Football Club, who made the momentous decision to switch codes in time for the start of the new season in 1903.

Gainsborough Trinity were the first visitors to City's Valley Parade ground, which had no covered accommodation but still attracted a crowd of 11,000.

Football was an instant success in Bradford and within five years City had won the Second Division title. This led to the directors drawing up a rebuilding programme and a main stand was built to seat 5,300 with standing accommodation for a further 7,000.

The vast Kop terrace was also built, along with an 8,000 capacity Midland Road stand and City attracted their highest gate of 39,146 for a clash with Burnley in 1911 - which gives them the distinction of having the longest-standing attendance record of any league club.

Unfortunately, City's fortunes dipped and in 1954 Bradford Corporation ordered the Midland Road stand to be demolished because of unsafe foundations.

A smaller stand was built but this was also dismantled just six years later.

City built a very narrow terrace in its place and Valley Parade remained unchanged until the tragic fire of 1985 which claimed 56 lives and destroyed the main stand.

The ground reopened on an emotional December day in 1986 with a new main stand and covered Kop terrace.

The old Bradford End came down in 1991 to be replaced by the small two-tier structure which is now the Symphony Stand while the impressive Midland Road stand was opened on Boxing Day, 1996.

The superb Kop has transformed Valley Parade further, but it will be the construction of the second tier on the main stand which will truly make it a top-class venue.

T&A Opinion

Converted for the new archive on 30 June 2000. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.