Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf reports that Vitesse owner and chairman Merab Jordania is currently working on secret plans to build a new stadium for the club.
The news comes somewhat as a surprise as Vitesse play their matches at the reasonably new and still modern GelreDome. The stadium, equipped with sliding roof and retractable pitch, opened in 1998 and was one of the playing venues of the Euro 2000 tournament.
The problem is that Vitesse does not own the stadium and therefore cannot fully exploit its possibilities. The club furthermore fears future increases in rental costs that may make staying at the stadium a bad deal.
The GelreDome has not provided much luck to its previous owners. Only a few years after it opened, it brought Vitesse on the brink of bankruptcy, and the city of Arnhem and province of Gelderland had to step in, buy the stadium, and provide the club with further loans to rescue it.
Maintenance of the stadium however meant a significant burden for the local taxpayers, and the stadium was sold to real-estate developer Eurocommerce. These in turn recently also went into administration, and the stadium is now set to be sold in an auction.
Vitesse, in the meantime, has been given new life through a take-over by ambitious Georgian businessman Merab Jordania, financially supported by the billionaire Russian Chigirinsky brothers.
Jordania would have liked to buy the GelreDome himself, but found a potential bid blocked by the province of Gelderland. When the stadium was earlier sold to Eurocommerce it was agreed that it would remain a multifunctional venue, which prevents a football club from buying it.
Whether Jordania is therefore serious about building a complete new stadium, or if he is just making threats to improve a possible future negotiating position remains to be seen.
A move away from the GelreDome will not necessarily be disastrous for the stadium. Vitesse currently only provides for 15% of the revenue of the stadium, with most coming in from concerts. The GelreDome is currently one of the most popular concert venues of the Netherlands.
If Jordania pushes ahead with his plans for a new stadium, it will likely not be in the near future. Vitesse currently not even fills 70% of the 25,000 seats of the stadium. The chairman’s ambition is to challenge in 2014 for the Dutch title and to have raised the club’s to €50 million (currently €30 million). He will surely hope that attendances have picked up evenly by then.