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On song Crues planning to go underground

By Graham Luney

Published 20/06/2015

Planning ahead: Crusaders chairman Stephen Bell says the club is now resigned to staying at Seaview
Planning ahead: Crusaders chairman Stephen Bell says the club is now resigned to staying at Seaview

Crusaders are pushing ahead with ambitious development plans at Seaview and it now appears certain the club will not be moving to a new stadium.

For many years the Shore Road club explored the possibility of moving to a new venue in the north Belfast or Newtownabbey area and the Loughside site emerged as an attractive option but now the Crues are happy to continue to modernise Seaview.

Following an extensive consultation process regarding the Loughside option it was determined that planning issues could be problematic and costly.

Crusaders now have two plans which are subject to funding being made available.

One is a training complex at Three Mile Water, Newtownabbey, which will also act as a centre of excellence for the club's women's team, the Strikers.

The other is a length of pitch stand at the south side of Seaview which would include executive boxes, rental space, conferencing facilities, as well as a basement level car park with 35 to 40 spaces.

Extensive development work has already been completed at the Shore Road ground but chairman Stephen Bell says there is much more still be done.

"We've tried to take away all the excuses people have given us that we have run-down stadiums with a lack of seats and toilets," said Bell.

"The reason why we thought about moving was because we looked at the commercial side and you can build bigger stands with office space.

"We have also been looking at car parking and that's a major issue at Seaview. People are parking on local streets and off-street parking was another reason why we were looking at other sites.

"We have plans for underground car parking on the Social Club side, funding permitted.

"We are also looking to develop the site at Three Mile Water for training purposes for youth teams.

"I think we are resigned to staying at Seaview and we are happy here but we know we need more pitches for the women's and youth teams."

Meanwhuile, Bell is also hoping that Gavin Whyte is a Crusaders player when the new season kicks off, despite interest from Everton who brought the teenager over for a trial.

"I think he enjoyed himself over there," he said. "They looked after him well and to be honest I wasn't hoping for an offer.

"We had two good years out of Stuart Dallas and I would like to see Gavin do the same, then move on.

"I would like to get another good season out of him and Gavin just needs to keep working hard at his game and the rewards will come. He's a good kid and whatever Stephen (Baxter) tells him to do he will do.

"We have never asked any club for anything. If clubs are interested in our players then make an offer.

"We didn't want Gavin to go on trial during the season as we were worried about him getting injured.

"Gavin was one of the first names on our teamsheet every week and we had to protect the player.

"Scouts have watched him a number of times and he played very few bad games last year."

Ivan Sproule has signed a new one-year contract with Linfield while Marc Smyth has been appointed as head of youth development at Cliftonville.

Belfast Telegraph

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