Chelsea Football Club have exchanged contracts with The Dons Trust, the owners of AFC Wimbledon, over the sale of Kingsmeadow Stadium, with the Blues hoping to use the ground for their youth team and ladies’ team fixtures.
Kingsmeadow, which is currently known as the Cherry Red Records Stadium because of sponsorship, was built in 1989 and was the home of Kingstonian Football Club until 2003 when, a year after moving into the ground to share it with Kingstonian, AFC Wimbledon bought it from them. It has a capacity of just below 5000, with 2265 seats.
There are a number of conditions that have been put in place that will need to be met before the deal can be finalised, including the fact that the Dons haven’t yet obtaining the final planning permission needed for their new home. Merton Borough Council have approved Wimbledon’s application to develop Plough Lane greyhound stadium into their new home, with those plans now being looked over by the Mayor of London.
AFC Wimbledon continued their dream of climbing up the Football League last month when they won the League Two play-off to gain promotion to League One. Their chief executive, Erik Samuelson, described the deal with Chelsea as a ‘major milestone’ in the club’s pursuit of a brighter future.
It is hoped that the funds raised from the sale of their ground to Chelsea will help them with their new ground, once all of the necessary permissions have been gained. AFC Wimbledon’s new stadium will have a capacity of around 20,000, an ambitious number considering the club averaged just over 4000 spectators at Kingsmeadow last season.
Samuelson continued, “The proceeds of this deal are an essential part of the financing of the new stadium. The vision of a return to Merton, with all the community benefits it also brings, is now becoming very real”.
Dons fans are keen for the club to return to its spiritual home of the Merton borough, especially given the fact that the club was formed as a reaction to the Football Association’s decision to allow Wimbledon FC to relocate to Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire in 2002, 56 miles away from Wimbledon. The club dissolved in 2004 and became the MK Dons.
AFC Wimbledon have pledged to make a ‘substantial donation’ to Kingstonian once the sale of Kingsmeadow has been completed. Having bought the ground from them in 2003 they want to ensure that the K’s, who play in the Ryman League, are able to secure a future playing at another ground in or near to Kingston.