Things, unfortunately, seem to have gone a little bit quiet recently in regards to the upgrading of Tynecastle - and the main stand in particular. The club had hoped to begin working on the area under the Wheatfield stand in April. Currently, the Edinburgh Council Planning Portal shows that a decision on that planning application has yet to be made. *update* planning permission for the Wheatfield stand undercroft was GRANTED on 28.07.2016 So, obviously we are going to see delays on the club's planned timescale to complete Tynecastle and increase her capacity to somewhere just north of 20,000. But this article isn't really about the existing plans. This article is about "What happens next?"
Once Tynecastle has 20,000(ish) seats shoe-horned inside of, what is undeniably, a very tight area, what then? Use the new main stand to help support the two ends and find a way to design and build a newer, larger stand where the Wheatfield currently sits? Move to a new home?
What capacity would any new Tynecastle/new stadium be? By that I guess I mean ... At what point would bigger be TOO big for Hearts? What, in reality, would our maximum crowds ever swell to in the modern era?
To that end, I'd like to offer up an intermediate, and, to be honest, relatively obvious solution to increasing the capacity of Tynecastle AFTER the scheduled expansion has finished.
Now, before anybody tells me "The club have already ruled that out!" ... Have they though? I realise that the club, as part of the Q&A sessions regarding the new main stand, have said that they have no plans to include rail seating in the new main stand. But surely that doesn't preclude one of the other three stands being partly ... or perhaps even completely given over to rail seating? After all, if done right, the intended "family" ambience of the Gorgie stand could surely be taken care of in the new main stand?
Think about it. Say, for example, the club decided that even the newly "finished" Tynecastle was too small. Why not take the decision to rip up the setas in the Gorgie stand and replace them with a safe standing zone? Hey presto! An area that currently holds 3,020 people practicly doubles overnight. And just imagine the noise (currently a bugbear of those claiming the ground has become a morgue) that such an area would generate.
For me, only two things would currently stop the club even considering that...
- Would the current structure housing those 3,020 seats be able to cope with double the weight of people?
- Can the "minority element" within our support behave itself long enough to avoid the club dismissing such a suggestion out of hand?
The first point obvously only, architect, Jim Clydesdale or the associated structural engineers could answer. Point two is really up to us ... and, given the behaviour of certain fans over the last two seasons, I'm not sure when such assurances could be given.