The Dons have overcome a major hurdle to building a new stadium – now the quest is on to make it home.
That is the new mission for Aberdeen FC chairman Stewart Milne, who welcomed news a judge has dismissed a legal challenge against the club’s new £50 million ground at Kingsford, paving the way for a major consultation of fans.
The Dandies chief stressed the current stadium design is an outline plan – and he wants supporters to tell the club what features they want in it to ensure views, leg room, the atmosphere and corporate facilities are all to supporters’ taste.
“Everyone at the club is over the moon. A major obstacle has now been removed and we can push on,” said Mr Milne.
He added: “We’re now in a position where we can start the full consultation process with our fan base, our corporate supporters and the wider community to make sure we’ve got the right facilities in the final design.
“We will be pushing ahead with that over the coming months.”
The development comes after Lord Tyre yesterday published his judgment, ruling a judicial review tabled by the No To Kingsford group (NKS) unsuccessful, after a three-day hearing at the Court of Session in Edinburgh in January.
NKS had claimed the process Aberdeen City Council used when granting planning permission in January 2018 was improper and its leaders were hoping to persuade Lord Tyre to force the planning process to backtrack.
But Lord Tyre ruled NKS had “not identified an error in law in the approach of the council”.
An Aberdeen City Council spokesman said: “We note the outcome of the judicial review and welcome the court’s ruling that a robust planning process was followed in determining the application.”
After hearing the news, Mr Milne suggested the stadium could be ready for the 2022/23 season, which would mean the Dons have three full seasons left at Pittodrie before the site is turned into housing.
There are as yet no firm plans, said Mr Milne, for a name for the new stadium and no decision has been made about whether stands will be named after club legends such as Sir Alex Ferguson and Neale Cooper.
“What that highlights is there are lots of issues we’ve got to work our way through,” he said.
“We’ve got to gather lots of opinions over the next period and that’s a major part of the exercise we’ll go through.
“What we’ve got for the stadium at the moment is an outline design, and we want to make sure the facilities we end up with in that stadium are what the fans and the corporate supporters are looking for, and they can serve that wider use for the greater community benefit.”
Mr Milne said that “absolutely” includes considering the stadium acoustics and the possibility of introducing a safe standing area for supporters who wish to create an atmosphere at matches.
Earthworks began at the 2.7m sq ft site beside the A944 between Westhill and Kingswells last July.
Construction on phase one – the training facilities and some road access points – began in October and Mr Milne said contractors are “pretty much on track” to be finished by this summer.
Building work on phase two, including the stadium, is expected to start in early 2021.
Campaigners hoping to halt the project now have until March 22 to appeal and, though NKS had previously said they would appeal a decision, the group has said it is taking time to consider matters with its legal team before deciding on the next step.
Mr Milne has offered them an olive branch to show them round the stadium site.
“What has taken place up until now, we’re more than prepared to put that behind us. It’s what we do going forward that’s important for everyone,” said Mr Milne.
“We made it very clear at the outset we wanted to work with the community.
“We don’t see this as purely being an Aberdeen FC project. If it’s set up in the right way it will be a massive benefit for the whole community.
“We’ve always said to NKS that we’re willing to get round the table and discuss specific issues and concerns they still have so we can start to bridge that gap. It’s been a painful process for many people to come through but I’d like to think the bulk of the people appreciate it’s been a worthwhile exercise.”
Once the fans’ consultation has taken place, the club will have costed the final project budget – and will know how much they still have to raise to make their dream a reality.
Mr Milne said: “(The fan consultation) will help us develop the final strategy on how we are to raise the money to deliver the stadium.
“We’ve identified where we believe we’ll be able to generate the bulk of the funds for phase two. That is what we’ll be working on in the coming months.
“There won’t be much of a winding-down process at Pittodrie. We’ll be maximising its use right to the very end.
“We’ve got to try to realise the maximum value of Pittodrie.
“Pittodrie is going to generate a substantial element of the finances required to deliver the new stadium.
“We’ve had planning consent for the site for well over five years now and we’ll continue that intention.”
Mr Milne added he hoped the judicial review outcome would provide an added boost for the players in tomorrow’s match against Rangers.