Adam Pearson: 'KC Stadium has been a catalyst to helping Hull clubs take huge steps forward'
Adam Pearson reflects on 10 years of the KC Stadium. James Smailes reports ...
RELAXING in his chair, Adam Pearson gazes around his office, the pride in his voice clear.
The emblem on his tie may have changed in the intervening years, but 10 years on from moving into the KC Stadium, the passion for a place he helped build still resonates.
The former owner of Hull City and chairman of the Stadium Management Company, Pearson's ownership of Hull FC has maintained his relationship with a building that holds so many memories.
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From successive promotions with the Tigers to ambitious plans for the Black and Whites, via Elton John and Blue, Pearson has been there from the very beginning.
While the 10th anniversary offers fans a chance to reflect on their favourite memories, so it has provided Pearson with a reason to revisit days gone by.
He admits he'll celebrate it with a great deal of pride, but tinged with an element of regret.
"I look back now with a lot of pride about what we built and achieved back then. But at the time you are so wrapped up in everything and that is a regret," explains Pearson.
"I never really enjoyed the promotions with Hull City because I was always so focussed on the next year. I got told I had to stop and enjoy the success while we had it and I do look back now with regret because I didn't enjoy those days as much as I should have done.
"But I look back with great pride at a coming together of public and private organisations who did a really good job to produce this great stadium."
It was the lure of a new stadium that had first made Hull City attractive to Pearson as he looked on from Leeds at a club crying out for both investment and a catalyst for success.
Former owner David Lloyd knew that catalyst was a "Super Stadium."
Lloyd's part in the fortunes of Hull City and Hull FC is well documented, but for all the faults of his ownership, it was that coming together of football and rugby in a new stadium that left the biggest impact after his exit.
Wanting a beacon for Hull, and cash rich after the sale of their shares in Kingston Communications, Hull City Council drove forward with the idea of a new stadium for the people of Hull.
"Ian Blakey came to me and said he was heading up the stadium management committee with Pat Doyle and asked what I though about Hull City moving to a new stadium," says Pearson as he puts the meat on the bones of the story.
"From our point of view it was a no-brainer for Hull City. I always felt moving to a new stadium could be the catalyst for huge growth of the club.
"I had a very optimistic conversation with Ian and once I realised the council were serious about doing it, we threw our full weight behind it to get it to happen as soon as possible.
"The prospect of a new stadium was a big pull for Hull when I arrived at the club. You could see the size of the place and the fact the sporting clubs in the city were struggling. It was obvious the place needed a catalyst and that was always going to be a new stadium."
With the Tigers on board, Pearson and Blakey approached Hull FC, who took no convincing their future lay away from the Boulevard.
"It was always seen from the start that the stadium was for a football and a rugby club and I always felt it needed two teams inside there to try and have 52 weekends of sport or entertainment a year," added Pearson.
"At the start we were looking to put on as many events as possible, so I thought that was good usage of the stadium. Bringing Hull FC in was crucial and they were always keen to move in anyway."
The idea of utilising the full potential of the KC may have fallen away in recent years, but in those early days Pearson was determined to attract the biggest names possible.
Bon Jovi, R.E.M and The Who played a city which was known over the years to struggle to attract the biggest names in music. Then there was Elton John. A concert Pearson admits could have broken him.
"I remember desperately waiting for Elton John to arrive at Humberside airport, because if he didn't I'd have been facing financial ruin.
"He had a reputation for not arriving and I'd paid out the best part of half a million pounds to fly him in. So that was a worry, but once we got into the operational side of these events and John Cooper got used to putting them on, the whole team did a great job of putting those events on.
"It is a shame we don't have those big events anymore. When we got promotion down at Yeovil, I remember coming back up to watch Blue. The first few events we put on were a nightmare, but after a while we really enjoyed putting the shows on.
"Things like having the cricket at the KC were great and we did everything we could to put Hull on the map. It is great to see the squash coming to the KC next year and the more events like that the better."
The lack of any such events now to rival Elton John and Bon Jovi is met with disappointment by Pearson.
For all the success the KC has brought Hull City and Hull FC, the blueprint of what the stadium was to provide has not totally been met in his eyes.
Current Tigers owners and Stadium Management Company chiefs, the Allam family, have their own grand plans for the stadium which have met with negativity from the council.
The sports and entertainment village idea sits in the background, with no realistic end in sight.
And as he reflects on the success of the stadium, Pearson regrets not being able to push through some of those grand plans during his days in charge.
"I have to say it is disappointing the stadium has not been developed out," says Pearson.
"The whole ethos from the council's point of view was it would provide the regeneration of west Hull.
"I should have put my foot on the gas when I was in charge and developed it out as there was less politics around then and it would have been more straight forward than it would now.
"West Park should be the centre of town now and around the stadium there should be a lot of amenities. The boom time going up to 2008, we had it all planned, hotels, casinos. We won a casino licence and it could have changed the whole city centre, which is what the stadium was supposed to do. So there are regrets there.
"It's a council asset and due to the way the financial world now is, that sort of development is much more difficult."
Future development of the KC is a contentious issue, but there's no doubting the success of the ground.
Attendances for the two tenants doubled overnight and have been sustained, in some instances even built upon, to offer a facility both Boothferry Park and the Boulevard could never provide.
For Pearson, the KC is much more than a ground. It is the spark that ignited the sleeping Tigers and a venue which will now allow his Hull FC side to become a dominant force.
"The opening league game against Hartlepool was a fantastic occasion and I knew then it was only a matter of time before Hull City took that next big step," he concludes.
"There was some frustration that first season in the KC because we wanted promotion that year, but the next season was a great one for the club and we went from strength to strength after that and under the Allams they continue to build now.
"This is the best ground in Super League and Hull FC being at the KC allows us to be the best we can be.
"We are ambitious to become a super power in Super League. Due to this facility there's no reason why we cannot achieve that.
"We have the latent support and once we get them back in the ground we'll get a team that can win every year. We are not going anywhere and why would you when you have a facility such as this?"
• Read lots more KC Stadium memories in a special pull-out inside today's Mail. Contributors include Nick Barmby, Stuart Elliott, John Kear and Shaun McRae.