The highly talked up prospect of major land development around the Madejski Stadium seems to be one step closer to becoming a reality, with a new project, called 'Royal Elm Park', being recently announced. Details are at this point limited, but some of the basic proposals have been laid out. After the plan was announced, Reading FC have officially confirmed their involvement in Royal Elm Park.
All in all, it's an exciting idea, with a whole community of buildings being constructed close to the Madejski Stadium. It includes homes, restaurants, and leisure facilites - including an ice rink. What's more, a 'world-class convention centre' is also in the pipeline, designed to both attract 'international organisations', and play host to music concerts and other similar events.
This news comes after Sasima Srivikorn's comments back in late August that she was looking into the potential construction of an entertainment venue on the Madejski Stadium car park. She also gave the following comments which are unrelated to the Royal Elm Park project, but are certainly interesting now that it's been announced...
"We have a good asset in the club. Reading is in a good position with Crossrail and property development looks like a thing to do. So if we can have the permission of course we would like to develop. But to enhance the image of Reading. We feel like we are a part of Reading society now. We've grown to love the town and we want to do everything we can to help Reading to shine. It has great potential."
Although none of the shareholders have specifically been linked to Elm Park, that quote from Sasima does seem to fit in a lot with what's now on the table. Throughout the period when Anton Zingarevich was looking to sell the club, it had been widely agreed that there was considerable potential in the area surrounding the stadium for would-be investors, and it does now seem that such potential is being explored.
Putting those comments alongside the plans for Royal Elm Park, it indicates very ambitious plans by the Thais in charge at Reading. Rather than simply owning the club, they appear to be looking at gaining a financial stake in non-football related aspects of the town, albeit with the aim of financially supporting the team. If that's true, it's very encouraging for us as fans, who saw the full effects of financial mismanagement in previous years.
On another note, such a development could help to improve the match day experience around the stadium itself, although that's of course dependent on the exact location of Royal Elm Park, which isn't made clear on the website. The Madejski Stadium is often criticised for being too far away from venues like independent pubs - could Royal Elm Park help solve that?
Since this article's original publication, Reading FC have released this statement on Royal Elm Park, which both confirms the club's link to the development, and provides more details on the plan itself. With regards to the organisation, Royal Elm Park is being managed by "Reading Football Club Prop Co Ltd, a partly-owned subsidiary of Reading Football Club." The statement also stresses the importance of new homes as a part of the project, with 600 of them being built to help reduce the town's need for new accommodation. There'll even be a new public park next to them, coming in at the grand size of 10,000 square metres.
For full details on Royal Elm Park, including details for public consultation exhibition events, you can find the website linked here.