AFC Wimbledon were finally given permission by Merton Council to start building a new £25m stadium at Plough Lane, their spiritual home.
Reported in the Evening Standard construction will start on the new 11,000 all-seater stadium next summer with the club hopeful of being able to begin the 2019/20 season in their new ground.
Since 2002 when AFC Wimbledon was formed they have been perennial nomads until, in more recent seasons, they have settled at the Kingsmeadow stadium. The new stadium will be 250 yards away from the original Plough Lane site, which was the home to the original Crazy Gang until its closure for first team action in 1991.
Dons' Chief Executive Erik Samuelson said: “Everyone in football knows the story of how AFC Wimbledon came into being. A group of fans started with nothing; no ground, no team, no manager, no players and no kit. Now, fifteen years later, we have taken a giant step towards going home.
“This is a momentous day for us. Everybody who has helped the club to reach this point must be very proud.”
Club officials will start to search for a naming-rights partner early next year and dream of opening their new stadium with a match against Spanish giants Barcelona. The Catalans are a fan-owned club like Wimbledon and the Dons will explore the possibility of playing the five-time European champions in a prestigious friendly to officially declare their new ground open.
Regarding the financing of the deal the south west London club will sell their current Kingsmeadow ground to Chelsea. The current Premier League champions will use the 4,800-capacity stadium to host all their academy and ladies’ team matches with Wimbledon thought to be getting around £2m from the Blues.
In addition, the Dons will receive £14m from developers Galliard Homes, who will build 602 new homes, retail space and a squash and fitness club on the site. For the surplus, the club will take out a loan to finance the rest of the project.
Current manager Neal Ardley said: “A lot of my early football memories are connected to Plough Lane and it is exciting news to hear that the club will finally be able to start work on building a new stadium back there. To lead the team out back at our spiritual home would be a huge privilege.”
These are thrilling times for Wimbledon and for all the hardship and upheaval that those connected with the club have had to endure over the last 26 years makes it all worthwhile and slightly more bearable.
Welcome home AFC Wimbledon!