KC Stadium at 10: 'People were dubious, but it has paid off big-style for Hull'
As the KC Stadium celebrates its 10th anniversary, Angus Young talks to Councillor Tom McVie, one of the political architects behind the development.
"ABOVE all, it is a beacon of hope, a vindication of those who believe in the future of our great city and a crushing indictment of the blinkered critics who constantly knock Hull."
Written ten years ago, the words belong to former Hull City Council leader Pat Doyle.
They accompanied a special book marking the opening of the KC Stadium and the dawn of an exciting new era for Hull as a sporting city.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Sunday, May 26 2013
A decade on, the stadium remains a remarkable one-off.
Funded entirely by the city council through its windfall from partial flotation of Kingston Communications in 1999, it was built on time and within budget.
Crucially, it also opened debt-free.
Those often overlooked facts raise a smile from Councillor Tom McVie, one of the political architects behind the stadium.
He was a member of a special council sub-committee which helped steer the project from the drawing board to reality.
As a season ticket holder for both Hull City and Hull FC, he's also passionate about what goes on there most weekends of the year.
"I would say the stadium has absolutely delivered, 100 per cent," he said.
"It is one of the best things the council has ever done and remains a testimony to the long-term vision of Pat Doyle because it was really his idea.
"Quite a lot of people at the time were dubious about it but Pat put forward a convincing argument for it to happen in the way it did.
"I think it has paid off big-style."
The windfall also allowed the authority to splash the cash on installing new double glazing and central heating in thousands of council properties across the city and build Endeavour School in Beverley Road.
But the spectacular stadium rising from the former Circle cricket ground next to West Park hogged most of the headlines.
"Because of the money from the flotation it was quite an unusual time and one which, as a council, we are unlikely to see again in the near future," said Cllr McVie.
"In that respect, it was a one-off opportunity for the council."
Addressing the financial plight of the two professional clubs now based at the KC was one of the motivations behind the stadium development.
"It's easy to forget how desperate things were for both City and Hull FC at the time," said Cllr McVie.
"By ensuring their future at a debt-free stadium owned by the council meant we would never again have a situation where gates were clubs were being locked out of grounds or being forced into mergers just to survive.
"It's also easy to forget the stadium came in on time and within budget. Compare that with what we have seen with other big stadium projects since then.
"I take a great degree of satisfaction about the financial model we used for the stadium after dealing with certain government departments and other funding bodies who refused to have anything to do with it at the time because they claimed it would never work."
More KC Stadium memories
On the sporting front, he is convinced the KC has helped transform the fortunes of both Hull City and Hull FC.
"Adam Pearson (former City chairman and now FC chief executive) said when he first came to Hull that he made up his made to come here because the stadium was being built," he said.
"He saw the potential and the rest is now history.
"I am certain that Hull City getting into the Premier League would not have happened without the KC.
"We have also see some great international matches being played there too."
Another ambition for the stadium was for it to act as trigger for wider regeneration in west Hull.
A question mark still remains over whether this has been achieved.
"The regeneration probably hasn't happened as quickly as we would have liked," said Cllr McVie.
"Without getting too political, there have been funding problems along the way but there has been regeneration.
"The stadium itself still looks the part and the facilities in West Park were improved tremendously as part of the overall development.
"As a location, I think it works and because of where it is I believe we have managed to attract more people for overnight visits because it is so close to the city centre.
"If I remember rightly, the second choice for a site was Costello and I'm glad it didn't go there because it is too remote from the city centre.
"There is still potential for development near the stadium but I accept the current economic climate is probably against that at the moment."
In time, he says he would like to see the return of major music concerts at the venue.
"We've had the likes of Elton John, REM and Bon Jovi come to Hull to play at the stadium and it would be great if the concerts could start again."