By Ken Ferris
LONDON, Dec 13 (Reuters) - Queens Park Rangers are planning to move from their Loftus Road ground to a new 40,000-seater stadium in northwest London, the English Championship club said on Thursday.
The stadium would form part of a "major regeneration" of the Old Oak area, including a residential and commercial development larger than the Canary Wharf financial district in east London.
"Loftus Road is - and always will be - a special place for the club and our supporters but we need more than an 18,000 capacity," said QPR Chairman Tony Fernandes, the Malaysian entrepreneur who took over the club in 2011.
"With no option of expanding here, we have to look elsewhere..." the AirAsia airline boss and Caterham Formula One team principal told the club website (www.qpr.co.uk).
QPR, who were relegated from the Premier League last season under manager Harry Redknapp, first used Loftus Road in 1917 and switched between there and White City until 1963, since when they have remained at the compact stadium in Shepherd's Bush.
The news comes after QPR and partners Stadium Capital Developments concluded a letter of collaboration with the Greater London Authority and London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham to "bring forward an early and very significant private sector investment into the Old Oak Common regeneration area".
It follows London Mayor Boris Johnson's announcement that turning Old Oak into a new world-class city quarter is to be one of his main regeneration priorities, and that a Mayoral Development Corporation (MDC) will be set up to promote it.
Under the plan, the stadium would be at the heart of the regeneration and trigger the creation of a residential and commercial area - provisionally called New Queens Park - covering hundreds of acres and creating 50,000 jobs and 24,000 homes.
Fernandes added: "...we welcome the Mayor's and Hammersmith & Fulham Council's commitment to regenerate the area, which includes an option to develop a new stadium at Old Oak as a key catalyst to bring forward redevelopment, cementing our future in this part of west London
"Not only will this give us a top quality stadium to cater for QPR's needs as the club progresses and grows over the years ahead, but we are very excited about being the driving force behind creating one of the best new urban places in the world.
"It will create a vibrant new destination in London, boosting local businesses, attracting new visitors and tourism and creating a thriving community."
QPR's chief executive Philip Beard said fans would be consulted on any move, adding: "Loftus Road is renowned for its atmosphere and with the help of our supporters, replicating that at our new stadium will be one of our top priorities."
Antony Spencer, who is developing the master-plan for Old Oak, added: "We are confident of securing a planning permission by early 2015 and starting development shortly afterwards." (Writing by Ken Ferris; Editing by Peter Rutherford)
- Queens Park Rangers
- Tony Fernandes