£10m over budget but completion in sight for Hearts’ main stand
But fans of the Gorgie club have been informed that rising costs have been covered and that the project should be completed by the end of 2020.
Work began on the redevelopment in November 2016, with the old main stand hosting its final game on 7 May, 2017. Hearts then played the last four games of the 2016-17 season away from home and, although they were able to open the other three stands to accommodate League Cup matches early in the new campaign, they were granted permission to schedule away fixtures for the beginning of league business.
They had been due to return to Tynecastle to host Aberdeen in September but embarrassingly missed the deadline after it was revealed that new seats had not been ordered in time.
That meant a temporary relocation to Murrayfield for “home” games against Aberdeen, St Johnstone, Rangers and then Kilmarnock before finally getting the go-ahead to open the turnstiles for the visit of Partick Thistle in November 2017.
But, with the development always planned as a phased operation, work has been ongoing and while deadlines have passed, projected spending targets have risen.
Addressing the club’s AGM, club owner Ann Budge stated that they have received glowing feedback on the completed levels of the stand, which will still come in at less than half the price of former owner Vladimir Romanov’s ambitious £51m plans, but she admitted that work had been placed on pause as plans for the development of the second floor area were finalised and funds earmarked.
“We still have one more floor of the main stand to finish and we have looked at several different plans, covering several different uses,” said Budge. “The one I think we will go with is sitting there, ready for me to press the button on, but we need to ensure we have the money because we don’t spend what we don’t have.
“It is important we make sure we have the money to finish it to the same standard and quality as the rest of the stand. I would have liked to have pressed the button in January but, with everything else that has gone on, I can’t see that happening much before the end of the season.
“But hopefully during 2020 we will have the second floor finished and that will be another major source of income for us.”
With the team sitting bottom of the Premiership, the majority shareholder revealed that the club are currently shy of their revenue projections for this stage of the year but believe that the change in management and an upturn in on-field fortunes could get them back on course.
“When the team is not performing well, it impacts across all areas of the business,” she added. “So we are about £400,000 down on our revenue target for this time. That is because people don’t come if they are not enjoying the football and hospitality is harder to fill etc. We are having a hard time of it this year. But we have taken some action and hopefully we will see that change.”
Finding a way to finish the work could help reduce the overheads of operating on a building site, while the additional facilities should bolster revenue potential.
“We set ourselves some targets last year, to open the Tynecastle Nursery which we did. It has repeatedly been described to me as the best council nursery in Edinburgh. The other thing we said we would do and we did was complete all of the ground floor of the main stand. That included the changing rooms etc. and under the Roseburn Stand we have a state of the art plant room, which is an investment for today and an investment that will see us into the future.
“But the icing on the cake for those of us who work at the club, was getting the top floor Skyline Lounge open. The Skyline Lounge and restaurant is amazing, absolutely first class and regularly, almost every game, it is described as the best facility in Scottish football.
“Do we have to have the best? No we don’t, but if we are doing something, then we might as well do it as well as we can. And we are incredibly proud of the Skyline Lounge. And that will help generate substantial future income. We are investing both in the infrastructure of the club, the long-term future of the club. We are also investing in trying to make our football department better.
“We are in a period where we are investing and we have to continue to invest.”
Budge conceded that setting high standards, allied to the project overrun, meant that the final bill would be £10m more than original estimates. But shareholders were informed that thanks to payment plans that had been agreed with contractors, payments were up to date and paid off by the end of 2019 on all works done.
So far, on top of the £20.8m outlined at the 2018 AGM, a further £200,000 was spent on finishing the top floor and the changing rooms and Budge expects more than £1m in additional funds will be needed to wrap up the work.
“The final bill? The current estimate is around £1.5 for the plan we currently have for second floor,” she said. “When will it all be finished? That depends when we have the funds to finish it. To do what we are currently talking about, on the second floor, that will be another nine-month programme of developments and at this moment I have yet to press the button on that.”