Manchester City will table plans to expand capacity at both sides of their Etihad Stadium, giving them the potential to reach a 60,000 capacity after they have added a third tier to their South Stand.
The Independent revealed in May that the club, who had 99.1 per cent capacity for their Premier League games last season, intend to build on a high volume of sell-outs by taking the capacity to 54,000 with the new tier. They will leapfrog Newcastle and Sunderland to command the third highest capacity in the Premier League, after Manchester United and Arsenal. Though there is potential to expand both sides simultaneously and economies in undertaking one major project, it is likely that the South Stand will take the initial extra capacity, in a building project which will see the footprint of the Etihad expand by 16 metres.
City, who embarked on an exhaustive public consultation with local residents, intend to add 6,000 extra seats in the new tier, allowing them to introduce a £299 season ticket, and there is also a demand for an additional 2,400 seats for supporters seeking an element of upmarket hospitality at games. City's Abu Dhabi owners have always insisted that they will not expand the current capacity until they can be sure that they will fill it. The club's Head of Infrastructure and Corporate Responsibility, Pete Bradshaw, said that the decision on how radically to expand would be taken by next April - when the club hope to know whether their planning application has been approved by Manchester City Council. The new stand should be open in time for the 2015/16 season.
The Etihad, which was designed by architects Arup for the 2002 Commonwealth Games, has a capacity of 47,805 and the extra tier will take it well above Liverpool and Chelsea, other clubs who desperately need a way of increasing match-day revenues but do not have the room to expand that City enjoy.
Though the council owns the stadium and City have it on a 250-year lease, the club will undertake the entire £50m investment if, as expected, planning approval is granted. An initial two-month phase of public consultation, running until the end of next month, will be followed by a formal public consultation in the autumn.
City's feasibility studies for ways of expanding their ground have included an analysis of lifting off the roof and creating an entire new tier to boost capacity to over 70,000, hugely increasing match-day income. But a more organic type of development - increasing the stadium bit by bit - is considered the best way to accommodate new capacity as the club's growth brings in more fans.
The club continued to generate revenue through commercial partnerships in Asia, announcing a new sponsorship deal with Thailand's leading car battery brand GS Battery.