START spreading the news. Rotherham United will be playing at The New York Stadium next season.
Chairman Tony Stewart announced the name yesterday and, before anyone scoffs, take note: it is more than just a gimmick.
Granted, the League Two club will get far more publicity operating under a New York banner than if they had opted, instead, for The Foundry, The Waterfront, or the New Millmoor.
But there is also a legacy behind the move.
For the area of Rotherham where the new stadium is currently under construction was previously known as New York.
And Guest and Chrimes, the company which occupied the site for nearly 150 years, famously made the red fire hydrants that are still dotted around the streets of America’s New York City.
Stewart, who has used both personal and private funding to meet the £20m cost of construction, hopes the stadium and its name will help put the Millers back on the footballing map.
“We are ambitious both in footballing and commercial terms,” Stewart told the Yorkshire Post. “We are thinking big – not small – and, yes, this will maybe turn one or two heads.
“After careful consultation and detailed research into the local history of the site, we felt that New York was perfect – it is an iconic name and fits what will be an iconic stadium.”
With a capacity of 12,000, the Millers will require a substantial increase on their current home gates of 3,600 to fill the new stadium.
Stewart is confident, however, that promotion coupled with a return ‘home’ after four seasons at Sheffield’s Don Valley stadium will be catalysts for an increase.
“If you are ambitious, you don’t want to be in League Two, you want to be in League One or the Championship,” he said. “But the most important thing is that football is coming back to Rotherham and that will excite the fans.
“The location is perfect for people travelling into the town and I want people to stand up and realise where we are going as a football club and a town,” he explained.
“The new stadium name is strongly rooted in more than 150 years of Rotherham’s proud history of industry and enterprise, linking the old and the new eras. We went out to the fans about six or seven weeks ago and asked them to come up with some names. The front-runner in the early stages was the Foundry. We also had the Waterfront or the Don Quay – which we didn’t go for but had a smile about.
“However, in in the last few weeks, the New York was suggested and had a ring to it. Part of the decision is the connection to New York City and the doors that may open commercially. We will be looking into the possibility of setting up links between Rotherham and New York, USA.”
The Millers are currently ninth in the League Two table and, between now and next summer, need to get back in the promotion frame.
Stewart admits that he will only regard success as a top-five finish but retains total confidence in manager Andy Scott.
“Like all teams, we have had our fair share of injuries,” he said.
“It’s been a new manager and a new team – but there are no excuses.
“I’ve always believed that this manager will take us places and I have no reason to doubt that now.
“I know we set off really well – and then we hit a flat spot – but now, coming into the new year, I believe we are gathering momentum. It will be a gradual process but we have a good opportunity this season to get into the top four or five – which I would rate as a success.
“We are ambitious and my job is to make sure the manager has the tools to do the job. I do believe he is going to shake the bag up in January, he’s looking to do one or two things, and he has my blessing and backing for that.
“We would all love to go into League One and then move into a new stadium,” he added. “Chesterfield have done it, we want to do it, and there’s no reason why we can’t bring that success.”
Stewart plans to invite the Mayor of New York to the club’s first game at the New York Stadium – which is likely to be refereed by Howard Webb, a lifelong Millers supporter.
Webb, who refereed the 2010 World Cup final, attended yesterday’s press conference in the role of honorary ambassador of the club.
Commenting on the choice of name, Webb said: “When I first heard the suggestion, it resonated with me because my grandmother, Nellie Howard, who is 92 and still lives locally, grew up in the New York area of Rotherham.
“It is the sort of name that might split opinion,” he admitted. “But they are good names because they get debated and talked about. It all does the job of putting Rotherham United on the map. It’s no different to the Stadium of Light (Sunderland) or Pride Park (Derby County) and they became part of popular culture very quickly.”
Webb admitted that he would love the opportunity to referee the club’s first pre-season friendly at the new stadium because, due to his local connections, he is not allowed to referee the Millers in a competitive fixture.
“As a lifelong fan of the club, it would be wonderful to be involved in such a momentous game in the club’s history,” he said. “The Millers are responsible for my interest in the game and I still manage to attend about seven or eight home games a season
“Although Don Valley has served a purpose, it’s not a football stadium and the players don’t get any benefit of home advantage from the atmosphere,” he added. “When the team plays at the new stadium, they will feel the benefit again. Hopefully, we can utilise that we when we come back but, generally speaking, we are already going in the right direction.”