GLASGOW could become the biggest ice hockey town in the UK thanks to a state-of-the-art new arena.
That is the vision of Braehead Clan chief Gareth Chalmers as he plots taking the EIHL club to even greater heights in the year ahead.
Clan are only in their seventh season but are already regularly playing to bumper crowds inside the Braehead Arena on a weekly basis, but a planning application is still being considered to build a new venue next to their current home that would see capacity soar from 3500, to potentially 8500.
The current arena at Braehead during a Clan home game. Picture: Al Goold.
Doing that would propel Clan to become one of the league's big hitters, and Chalmers exclusively told the Sport Times he has no fears about the organisation stepping up to the challenge of almost doubling their home gate.
"We are in contact with the senior Intu management quite a lot about this," said the Clan hockey and operations director. "These things take time.
"There is red tape to go through and we are now waiting. I know the management team are quite keen to push things forward. We are hoping it will be sooner rather than later so we can push on and compete against the top clubs.
"I still think this is potentially the biggest ice hockey market in the UK. The growth over the last five years has been very good and it's taken a lot of people by surprise.
"We will have to employ extra staff but everything we have done so far has worked. Now we need to take that into the new building, do it bigger and better and I'm certain we'll get the bums on seats. Im certain of that."
New design for the arena
Original proposals had the new arena, which will sit beside a new hotel, to be completed by 2020. However, given the protracted nature of the consultation process, it's unclear if that timeframe is still achievable.
Until them, Chalmers insists the organisation remain realistic about the progress they can make in a progressively more challenging league in terms of revenue.
He explained: "Our playing budget has gone up by about 20 per cent and we've only been able to do that because we've increased revenues. The fans have supported us. We are still very positive about the rest of the season.
"We have a solid business plan which is growing season on season it's just unfortunately we've reached a point now where it is stagnating because we can't grow any bigger.
"It's just down to bums on seats. We've maxed things out and when you have Belfast, Sheffield and Nottingham all getting double the attendances, that makes it difficult to keep up.
"You then add in the fact that Cardiff are getting free venue rental, that puts them £100,000s ahead of us. That's creating a situation where we are struggling to keep up, so we have to be realistic but also creative. From a budget perspective we are probably fifth or sixth in the league."
Plans show the large dome that will feature next to Intu Braehead shopping centre.
It is believed the introduction of Milton Keynes Lightning next year will see the scrapping of the conference system, a current set-up that arguably favours Clan as they face the four big hitters of Sheffield, Nottingham, Belfast and Cardiff less.
Despite that, Chalmers is still optimistic silverware can be achievable.
"The message is still positive," he said, "if we get our recruitment right we can surprise teams.
"We now have to win something. From the ownership down we all want it, we just need to realise season on season it's more difficult. That's why we are desperate for that building to happen."