London Metro Area Stadium Highlight: Reading's Madejski Stadium (24,084 > 33,000 Capacity)
Even though in the city proper there is an immense amount of work going on with new stadia and various expansion projects; I thought it would be good to show one of the projects going on just outside London in one of the larger commuter towns: Reading (15 miles from London). Currently the town's stadium is home to the local football team Reading FC and rugby team London Irish.
The Madejski Stadium (named after Reading FC's chairman and financer) is an all-seated, all-covered 24,084 capacity stadium. Currently Reading (as indicated by the following Observer
article) are top of the Championship and are set to move up into the holliest of all leagues: the Premiership alongside the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspurs and Manchester United.
With this promotion there is a high probability of the roof being lifted up and another tier tucked in raising the capacity up to 33,000. This added capacity would make it the largest stadium (excluding race courses and race tracks) in London's metro (obviously excluding the stadia in London itself). The current stadium in its tier alignment could also cope with a further expansion up to 40,000, but after this there would have to be major work if Reading were to attract such high attendances - but it is possible.
If expanded to 33,000 this would become the 8th largest stadium in the London metro area (inc. London stadia).
Alone in the city proper of London there is a whopping 14
stadiums with a capacity either built or u/c over 20,000. Overall in London and its metro area there are 20 stadiums above 20,000 capacity!
Current Madejski Stadium - 24,084 Capacity | Soon to be 33,000
Madejski ready to raise roof as Reading warm to promotion task
Jamie Jackson witnesses how the runaway Championship leaders are concentrating their efforts to avoid the heartbreak of last season so they can finally take their place among the elite for the first time in their 135-year history
Sunday January 22, 2006: The Observer
Reading's players will wake this morning to the soothing sound of the ocean. They are in Vale do Lobo, a luxury golf and beach resort on the Algarve that is flanked by miles of golden sand and red sandstone cliffs. The trip to Portugal is just reward for the startling success they have had this season. Steve Coppell's players, though, will be afforded little time to address their swings. 'We are here for a few days' warm-weather training,' the manager said. 'The intention is to push on.'
This has been a campaign of irresistible progress for Reading. It should end in promotion to the top flight for the first time in the club's 135-year history, possibly as champions with a record points tally. The past seven days have featured a remarkable comeback against West Brom in an FA Cup third-round replay, committed yet relaxed training at their new base in Hogwood Park near Wokingham in Berkshire and a hard-earned draw away to Crystal Palace.
It is further evidence that the club will not crumble, as they did during a similar stage last term when, as Championship leaders, a 3-0 defeat by Preston at Deepdale began a run of 11 league games without a victory. Misery was then completed when a 3-1 loss to Wigan at the JJB Stadium on the final day meant no play-off place and a long summer of introspection. Now, the club and everyone connected with it buzzes with expectation.
It is Tuesday evening and the executive bar at the Madejski Stadium teems with the good and great. In a few hours, Reading will stun West Brom and their fans. John Madejski, Reading's millionaire owner and a good friend of Cilla Black, has broken off from glad-handing Lord and Lady McAlpine to offer a few words on his club's season.
Reading have 73 points. That has been enough in five previous years to reach the play-offs, yet there are 16 games left. If the club continue to pick up points at their present rate, they will end with 111, six more than Sunderland's record mark in 1998-99. Since defeat by Plymouth on the opening day, Coppell's men have lost only to Arsenal in the League Cup. It is more than 2,600 minutes since the club have taken less than a point from a Championship match. Third-placed Leeds would have to win seven and hope Reading lose seven to displace them from the automatic promotion place so coveted in this part of Berkshire.
'I know squat about football,' Madejski says, but a man with a self-made fortune of £325m must surely come with some transferable skills. Everything, he adds, has been learnt on the hoof. Since he took over in 1990, the 64-year-old, who made his fortune from Auto Trader, has turned the club around.
Now promotion to the Premiership beckons. So what is the difference this season? 'Coppell now has his feet firmly under the table [he arrived in October 2003]' Madejski says. 'And we strengthened. I gave him £1m to buy Leroy Lita.' The club's record signing is indicative of Reading's greater resources. Acquired from Bristol City in the summer, the Congo striker's progress has been blighted by injury, yet he has still scored 10 goals in 25 appearances, including the impressive hat-trick that killed off West Brom. Quick and muscular, he is a hugely potent option to have on the bench. Coppell's first choice at Palace on Friday, as throughout the campaign is Dave Kitson, a £1.5m buy from Cambridge United two seasons ago who is the Championship's top scorer with 13, and Kevin Doyle, an £80,000 summer signing from Cork City, who has 11 goals.
Eighteen months ago, Madejski's money also provided the new training facility - the club formerly used Reading's hockey and cricket clubs in Sonning - that sits on former army land. Hogwood Park has room for a car park, numerous pitches, as well as Portakabins that house a gym, Coppell's office, changing rooms and a small dining area. It is a relaxed environment. Boots are casually scattered on the concrete, players are happy to stop and chat. 'It's a brilliant, easy-going club,' Doyle says.
Coppell moves around the place quietly, always ready with a wry comment. He believes that greater firepower is the main difference this season. 'Last year we never scored once from a wide position,' he says. 'Now, the wide men have contributed [left-winger Bobby Convey has four goals, Glen Little five]. And we signed Leroy Lita and Kevin Doyle.'
Doyle's success has been rewarded with a new three-and-a-half-year deal. 'It's been brilliant,' he says. 'Top of the league and I'm playing pretty regularly.' And Reading's success? 'We try to do everything as quick as possible - corners, throw-ins, goalkeeper kicking it out,' the 22-year-old says. 'We break down teams in the first half and it opens up in the second.'
On Friday this is evident. Despite Palace's greater possession, Reading are more convincing. Steve Sidwell and James Harper, both former Arsenal trainees, are impressive in central midfield. The big American keeper, Marcus Hahnemann, concedes the penalty from which Palace score, but also makes vital saves. Two minutes after the spot-kick Reading's desire results in a fine equaliser from Harper. As Coppell says later: 'We now have the mentality that we will score from half-chances.'
Hahnemann came through the American college system and did not play professionally until he was 22. 'When you play 50-odd games a year sometimes it feels like groundhog day,' he says. 'Yet even when we haven't been 100 per cent we've somehow managed draws. A big factor is the defence being together for a year now.' So far it has allowed 16 goals in the league. Captain and right-back Graeme Murty, left-back Nicky Shorey and the central defence pairing of Ivar Ingimarsson and Ibrahima Sonko are the regular back four.
Reading's closest shot at the Premiership came in 1994-95 when, despite finishing second, they had to play-off against third-placed Bolton because of a reduction of numbers in the Premiership. A 2-0 lead at Wembley ended in 4-3 extra-time heartache. Madejski, ever the positive entrepreneur, believes that it was a blessing. 'We were at Elm Park [the club's former ground, which held 15,000] so it would've been a total disaster,' he says. 'With the Justice Taylor [ruling], it probably would've been the demise of the club, as to make it all-seating would have taken capacity down to 10,000.'
Now the club have facilities as good as most in the Premiership, having moved in 1998 to the purpose-built Madejski Stadium, which cost £40m. 'If we get to the Premiership and have a year of consolidation,' says Madejski, 'then we have the ability to raise the roof and take the capacity from 24,700 to 33,000.' After that, he might sell. 'As far as I'm concerned getting to the Premiership is job done.'
Already, more than 15,000 season tickets have been sold for next season and demand will rocket further if the club, as they surely will, win promotion.
Then, John Madejski may indeed have to raise that roof.