Since club chairman Mel Morris took full ownership of Derby County much has changed at Pride Park Stadium.
Not only has the ground reverted back to its original name after ending its sponsorship agreement with iPro, the Rams have been investing heavily in its facilities.
A new pitch, a new PA system and a new restaurant called The Yard have all been new additions to the ground which in the summer celebrated its 20th anniversary.
But by far the biggest investment yet could be the extension to the East Stand, which would incorporate new restaurants, bars and a ‘fan zone’.
But the big question is, if the scheme does get permission, will it ever be built?
For the past decade the club has had plans to build a similar development called the Plaza @ Pride Park – but this has not materialised.
While plans for the new extension to Pride Park’s East Stand are genuinely exciting – there may be another reason why the club has chosen to submit this latest application.
The club received permission for the Plaza project back in 2012 on the proviso that work on the development would start within five years.
That planning permission is due to expire. By submitting its latest application, the club could just be trying to keep planning consent for such a development alive.
This means that conceivably, if the East Stand extension is given the green light, spades may not be plunged into the ground right away.
The Yard restaurant opened for business at Pride Park Stadium this year
Indeed, the club may choose not to start work at all in the five-year period after getting permission.
So, what could be the factors that might persuade the club to start work on such a project sooner rather than later?
Perhaps one of the major factors might be Premier League football.
The Rams are currently in the Championship. They have been there for the past decade. Would the Plaza project have been built if Derby had achieved promotion to the Premier League during those last 10 years? Quite possibly.
Would the proposed East Stand extension be built if the Rams get promoted to the Premier League some time in the future? Again, quite possibly – particularly if the club manages to preserve its top flight status for a few seasons.
Will Derby County wait until they are firmly established in the Premier League before building any extensions to Pride Park Stadium?
When you think about it, it makes sense to have development plans already in place, with all the necessary permissions, for such an eventuality as promotion to the Premier League.
What we have here with this latest application could be simply a tactical move by the club. A bit of future-proofing if you like.
With this in mind, it could well be argued that what happens on the pitch could have a real influence off the pitch in terms of future investment in the stadium.
On this topic, there has been much talk – particularly among fans – about whether one day the capacity of Pride Park Stadium will ever be increased.
There were once plans to increase the capacity of Pride Park Stadium
Back in 2009, Derby had put itself forward to become one of 12 host cities as part of England’s bid to stage the 2018 World Cup.
Pride Park Stadium did not make the FA’s shortlist. However, as we all know now, England’s bid failed and Russia will be hosting next year’s tournament.
One of the criteria that Pride Park needed to meet was to increase its capacity from 33,500 to 45,000.
The cost of doing so was estimated at the time to be £26 million.
There is room to add extra tiers to Pride Park. Indeed, when the stadium was originally built, foundations were put in for such an eventuality.
Right now, it would be safe to say that increasing the stadium’s capacity is not on the agenda.
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Earlier this week, when the Rams played QPR, the game was watched by 23,296 supporters – the club’s lowest home attendance of the season.
However, if the Rams were in the Premier League, there is a good chance that the stadium would be full at every home game – as was the case the last time Derby were in the top flight in 2007 – and despite the Rams enduring a particularly wretched season.
Would Derby look again at extending the capacity of Pride Park Stadium once in the Premier League? Well, anything can happen in football.
Source: Derby Telegraph