Cambridge City steeling up for busy six months ahead of Sawston stadium switch
Cambridge City are braced for a club and history-defining six-month period.
It is both a literal and metaphorical meaning to say that everything is ticking along nicely on the pitch and so the focus turns to off it.
Robbie Nightingale has got the team up into the top 10 in the Northern Premier League, Midlands Division while still tenants at Histon Football Club.
Down the road at Sawston, the centrepiece of the new stadium, the hallowed turf, is already down and taking shape.
Therefore, the first half of the year will be centred on building the surroundings that will create the home for City supporters.
At the start of the 2021/22 campaign, it was hoped that the Lilywhites would be able to head into their new home at the turn of the year.
However, supply chains and global issues have slowed down the build.
“With the steel delays, price increases have been monthly and sometimes weekly,” explains Alice Dewey, City’s general manager.
“I know somebody in the steel industry selling it and he was doing quotes. Normally, it would be for a month but they were only doing it for a week or two because of the price increasing so much.
“We obviously were quoted for the main stand, and then looked at trying to make changes to bring that quote down. Some of the steel has been delayed for a 15 to 16-week lead.
“Obviously Covid as well has caused issues, Brexit has obviously led to the supply issues and hopefully that is only going to come down now.
“Every single bit of material that we and everybody is wanting for all sorts of builds is going up [in price] and constantly changing.
“It’s things that are going on in the world that are causing us delays, it’s nothing else. The steel is on the way and we’re hoping for that to start in the middle of February.”
The new year started off in good fashion for the project, as it was confirmed that City, working with the Football Foundation and Cambridgeshire FA, had received a grant of £586,491 towards the cost of the 3G pitch.
They also secured funding from the Premier League, through the Football Stadia Improvement Fund, of £150,000 towards new floodlights, spectator accommodation, boundary fencing, ball-stop netting, pitch perimeter barrier, turnstiles, dugouts and spectator hardstanding.
It is hoped that the foundations for the main stand will be finalised in the next few weeks, with the main stand going up from mid-February, at the same time as the work on the 3G pitch begins.
“Once that starts to go up, even the initial four corners of the stands, it’s going to ramp up the excitement even more,” says Dewey.
“Us core City fans and volunteers are already excited, but as soon as that starts to go up it’s going to change the view of the site dramatically – it’s obviously when we start to get our home.
“The crucial part is the football on the pitch, but the inside of the main stand is where those teams are going to have their space to gel before the games.”
Plans have changed and evolved since they were originally revealed publicly, which was a number of years ago now.
Lilywhites supporters attended a presentation as part of a One Club Day at the Spalding match in November, and that set out the project, as it stands.
“A couple of key points that people will have seen the artists’ impressions, but the standing terraces behind both goals and opposite the main stand are slightly smaller, they are not end to end,” says Dewey.
“But they can be extended at a later date. There is also space behind the stand opposite the main stand with plenty of grass area to extend the stands, make them bigger if, in the future, we want another seated stand.
“The other thing is that with the rising cost of the build, the separate building for the 3G pitch changing rooms is not going to be built at all to start with.
“We’re currently looking at options to introduce that.”
There remains a strong desire to build the changing facilities for the 3G pitch.
City are doing all they can to source external funding for the building, and will be launching a fundraising campaign within the club to source as much as possible.
“It’s crucial for us to have those separate changing facilities because currently the changing facilities in the main stand are for the grass pitch,” explains Dewey.
“There is one community changing room there, but if we’ve got back-to-back games and/or training sessions on the 3G pitch then we need space for several teams.
“We will definitely have something there, and hopefully for the start.
“It’s the one thing that has been put on hold because the costs of the project are rising.”
There has been a strong commitment from the club to make the build as green as possible.
Two EV charging points have been installed, but there is ducting in place for up to 30 so it means they are future-proofing themselves.
There will be solar panels in place, rainwater will be harvested to help with pitch irrigation and air-sourced heat pumps for the water.
Other sustainability options are being considered.
Inside, on the ground floor, the main stand will feature a Legends’ Bar, similar to the one at the old Milton Road ground, a kitchen general changing rooms, first-aid room.
Upstairs will be the centre for hospitality, with corporate boxes and the boardroom area.
“There are then two large conference rooms, and they will again be adaptable for whoever is wanting to use the facilities,” says Dewey.
“There is potential for a couple of the rooms to have concertinaed dividing walls to either make the rooms smaller or have the full extent of it.
“The facilities will be there if a business came to us and said they wanted a room to let out Monday to Friday as their office, then that is an option.
“It will be meetings, community groups, networking sessions, whatever people want a space for then we will be able to accommodate them in some way or other.
“It’s all about us being flexible.”
Most importantly though, the new stadium will be about bringing all branches – the first team, the youth sides, and the ladies and girls’ sections – under one roof.
It will now be consolidated at Sawston.
“It’s poignant that the training facilities and playing facilities will all be in one location,” says Dewey.
“They will then be able to go into the bar and have food, drinks, socialise.
“At Milton Road, the teams still trained elsewhere and certainly played elsewhere but we had that family feeling on a first-team men’s home game when we could all be together.
“As we’ve dispersed around Cambridgeshire, we haven’t had that.
“To have our own Legends’ Bar back again, where we had many memories at Milton Road with various different events, but also celebrating and commiserating after games, that’s where the community feel gels.
“To have that back will be crucial.”
The Journey Home Project is a fundraising initiative that is designed to help the internal fit of the main stand to make sure it feels like home for City.
And the aim is to be in place by mid-summer.
“Fingers crossed, in July ready for the start of the season we will have a big opening ceremony, hopefully a big club day to open it up,” adds Dewey.