BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
ANN BUDGE has revealed that the new main stand at Tynecastle Park could generate an extra £3 million per year as the Hearts owner targets a bumper turnover of £15 million by 2020.
Budge has confirmed ambitious plans to host conferences, art exhibitions and hospitality events as well as installing a bar and cafe when the structure is finally fully operational.
Despite confirming that the project is now £3 million over the initial budget of £12 million, she is adamant the club have the contingencies in place to handle the costs and believes the capital club will be handsomely rewarded for their investment upon completion.
“We set the budget to break even this year and we should achieve that,” explained Budge. “Turnover will hopefully be in excess of £12 million which is significantly higher than when we took over just a few years ago. We have been managing cash flow carefully and it has been a challenging year.
“However, we are looking to get back to making profits, going forward. We have no bank loans or external debt, and of course, we must mention that we have a set of benefactors who continue to support the club. Our next target is to drive turnover up to £15 million, which should happen within two to three years.
“We expect the new stand to generate between £2 million and £3 million extra per annum when fully operational.
“We plan to maximise revenue streams; hospitality, conferences, exhibitions, ticket sales and the new shop. We also plan to build a supporters’ bar under the new stand that will hold approximately 250 people.
“Traffic from the shop will hopefully flow into the space which will operate as a cafe during the week. This space will also be able to be used to support community initiatives on non-match days.”
Budge added: “The cost of the stand is now looking like £15 million, up from the original estimate of £12 million. Yes, the rise in cost did concern us but there was always a contingency plan in place to allow for the possibility that the final bill could be higher.
“Our concerns were tempered by the fact that we can control how much of the stand we complete in what timescale. The most important thing was to get the stand open, in terms of it being up and running for the fans to be able to take to their seats and for the team to get back playing at home.”
With work set to continue apace on AND off the pitch at Tynecastle, Budge also confirmed that the club are considering staggering the laying of their new turf over the next two summers, rather than completing the project this close season, in a bid to spread the potential £1 million cost if they pursue a synthetic option.
Describing the under soil as ‘like concrete’, Budge is adamant another short-term fix such as the £120,000 spent replacing the grass last year is unacceptable.
“We currently have two options; one cheaper and one more expensive,” she continued. “The more expensive option is a hybrid pitch, which is what most top English Premiership clubs have and also what is now in place at Murrayfield. It’s approximately 95 per cent grass turf and per cent synthetic.
“It is a ‘stitched’ pitch. We are actually exploring the idea of phasing the work over two summers, both to try to spread the cost and to take some pressure off the timescales.
“This summer, we could potentially do all of the rebuilding/restructuring work and then lay new turf. We would then need to reseed and do the ‘stitching’ the following summer. The ball-park estimate for this is approximately £1 million.”
In a wide-ranging Q&A with popular fans’ forum Jambos Kickback, Budge also confirmed that supporters’ group Foundation of Hearts remain on track to take full control of the club by ‘May or June 2020’, revealed that a 250-strong singing section is set to be trialled in the Roseburn Stand next season and insisted boss Craig Levein will be given the resources to sign at least NINE new players in the summer.
Budge, meanwhile, waded into the controversy surrounding the prospect of Premiership Colt clubs taking part in League 2, which has proved a contentious issue since it was revealed that Celtic and Rangers were hoping to field their kids in the SPFL potentially as swiftly as the start of next season.
The Hearts supremo, who was elected on to the SPFL board in 2016, insists she has no problem with the idea in principle but believes change should not be implemented to suit a minority of clubs.
Budge added: “The matter is still under discussion and we are following these discussions. The main challenge would appear to be financial, in that running a colt team would cost a lot of money. I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing but we don’t want a situation where it’s really only feasible for a few clubs and prohibitively expensive for everyone else.