New Dons chief Dave Cormack said his heart will always be at Pittodrie – but the club must move to punch above its weight.
In a wide-ranging interview with the Evening Express to mark his first week as chairman, Mr Cormack revealed the brutal financial truth behind the Dons’ decision to leave their home of 116 years for a new 20,000-seater stadium at Kingsford.
He said: “As a fan – somebody who has been there since 1967 – I love Pittodrie. We all do. My heart will always be there.
“But if we’re going to be relevant in European football and generate more income to invest in the football team and operation, Pittodrie is not an option.”
Laying out the figures, Mr Cormack said: “Hearts have just spent close to £20 million on one stand.
“Let’s say we could replace our two halfway line stands for £15m each and the two ends behind the goal for £10m each. It adds up to £50m.”
Aberdeen FC’s commercial director Rob Wicks added: “The real cost is probably even higher because, let’s say you redevelop a stand a year, you’re going to have to take a stand out of commission for a year and there is a loss of income from those stands.”
Mr Cormack continued: “It would take five years to redevelop Pittodrie. We would end up with a 15,000-seater stadium and, because we’re landlocked, there is no ability for us to increase our income, for example, on the corporate side, which we fill out almost every game.”
The club sells 950 premium seating packages per game at Pittodrie.
“We think we can get to 2,500 at Kingsford,” said Mr Cormack.
Before taking on the role, he spent years developing software firms in the US, transforming one – Bright Tree – from a business with a £395,000 annual review in 2014 to £107m in 2016.
Through two decades of those dealings, he rubbed shoulders with the movers and shakers in the corporate world and helped the Dons forge a major link with Atlanta FC earlier this month.
Mr Cormack said: “I know the investment community.
“I know all the top guys at (investment banking firm) Goldman Sachs who, for example, funded with Bank of America Tottenham’s stadium.
“I can tell you that my guys who are investing their personal money – there is no-one who will invest in redeveloping Pittodrie.
“The market is telling us there is no money at all for Pittodrie. It would be impossible.
“Why would you invest £50m and not be able to increase your turnover?”
Mr Wicks added: “There are a million and one ideas we would love to put into practise that are in keeping with modern stadia trends, but there are only a small handful we can implement at Pittodrie because of the constraints of a 116-year-old stadium.
“We have a family stand at the Merkland End but no opportunity to do family-related activities due to a lack of space.”
Mr Cormack said: “We believe we can deliver a quality stadium for about £45m – and we get the land of Pittodrie (to sell).
“But importantly – and this is important for the fans and the city to know – we think we can generate £3m a year in high-margin income which can grow our turnover.
“We can therefore reinvest in the football operation itself.
“We need to get this balance between investing in the football team – and we’ve invested £9.2m this year, which is a record for us – as well as delivering infrastructure.
“If we want to make this happen, we’ve got a great opportunity at Kingsford to build a class stadium that will help us level the playing field against Celtic and Rangers and punch above our weight.
“Clearly, a gap between Aberdeen spending £9m on player wages and Celtic spending £60m on player wages is a lot.”
The training ground and community complex at Kingsford – part of phase one of the building project there – is complete.
The club had hoped the stadium, which is still to be built, would be ready for the 2021-22 season, but Mr Cormack accepts it might not open until 2023.
He said: “One of the reasons behind us being sensible about the timing is because we just got Pittodrie revalued at £11m so we have to consider that.”
It is understood the club hopes the value of the land will rise so it can put more towards the Kingsford project and require less funding from investors.
Mr Wicks said: “It’s important the fans appreciate the process. The fans are at the centre of the consultation. The consultation enables us to finalise the design.”