1874 Northwich have announced they will be playing at the Barton Stadium for a further two seasons.
The club have signed an agreement with Winsford United extending their ground share deal until the end of the 2017/18 season.
1874 Northwich needed to have in place an arrangement for next season to apply for promotion to the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League.
Extending their stay at the Barton Stadium, home of their landlords since 1883, has allowed 1874 Northwich to become one of five North West Counties League clubs to submit an application to move a level if they top the table at the end of the season.
Meeting the requirements to stage football at the higher level, the Barton Stadium – a Northern Premier League venue for 14 seasons between 1987 and 2001 when Winsford United were members – may require further work if 1874 Northwich are promoted.
Since announcing in March 2013 that the fledgling club would be playing their home games at the Barton Stadium, 1874 Northwich have worked hand in hand with Winsford United in improving the facilities at one the country’s oldest football grounds.
Originally known as the Great Western Playing Fields it has been home to Winsford United since their formation as Over Wanderers in 1883.
Having improved the floodlights ahead of the first season of the ground share, plus being involved in ongoing general maintenance of the ground, 1874 Northwich contributed £3,000 towards the improvement of the playing surface last summer.
Further work is planned for the summer to improve drainage of areas of the pitch which have been constantly water logging during a wetter than usual winter.
Chairman Paul Stockton paid tribute to “The Stadium Gang”, a group of volunteers who “give their time freely to put the time and effort in, over a period of time to really make things better”.
However, as manager Ian Street says “the dream is to be playing football in a stadium that feels more like our home, back in Northwich” and in agreement with Street, Chairman Paul Stockton commented “this new agreement gives us another two years to work on a plan to take the club to Northwich”
In order to progress with the plan to set up home in Northwich a Stadium Development Sub Committee was set up headed by Board Member James Wood, along with the launch of the BIN (Back In Northwich) Fund, which amongst various fund raising events sees a collection bin sited inside the ground at all home games.
At the club’s AGM, Wood told members “Hosting opponents at our home in the town is not merely a dream; it is our number one priority as a club”, pointing out it has taken Maidstone United two decades from reformation to play at their home ground.
He did issue a cautionary note, saying: “making it a reality will be a slow burn, it is going to take time, effort and money. I understand people’s frustrations but there are conversations taking place with parties we feel could help with our plans.
“Most of these are at an early stage and are sensitive in nature, and these people don’t want the details of those discussions in the public domain until a realistic opportunity presents itself”.
Any new ground is unlikely to be built on land owned by 1874 Northwich, as Wood explained.
“We think purchasing a plot of land to build a ground on is unachievable, so we are not exploring that option. That does not mean there aren’t alternatives, in fact there are a number of them.”
In a report to members it was revealed there are eight possibilities, with inspections of several potential sites in Northwich having been undertaken.
When asked if an option would be stay at the Barton Stadium permanently, Wood replied: “That is not our thinking.
“We feel as a board that we won’t be able to truly grow the way we want as a club and also in the community until we have a home of our own.
“The clue is in the name – 1874 Northwich.”