MK Dons Football Club has announced plans to complete the second phase of their stadium by the start of next season.

The development is being funded by a new £56m retail development on the site and means capacity at Stadium:mk will increase from 22,000 to 32,000. The venue has been a work in progress since it was opened in 2007.

"It's something we've worked so hard for over the last few years," Dons chairman Pete Winkelman told BBC Three Counties Radio. "Being able to secure these kinds of deals in this kind of economic climate is a great green light for growth in Milton Keynes."

Despite attracting average attendances of 8,111 this season the League 1 side is not put off by lack of fans. Their biggest crowd so far this campaign, 10,554, against Scunthorpe in October which is more than 21,000 seats short of the ground's proposed capacity.

But Stadium:mk has managed to attract larger crowds through other events. Rugby union team Northampton Saints played Heineken Cup games in front of crowds of 21,309 and 18,231 against Ulster and Perpignan respectively. The venue also hosted England Under-21s against Bulgaria in a European Championship qualifier in November 2007 with a crowd of 20,222.

"It's not about the capacity for the football in the short term,” Winkelman added. “It's about the cultural infrastructure of Milton Keynes.

"We set our stall out that we would go and build a UEFA standard stadium. It's already brought us international games and of course the Saints games last year. So it's really about all the things we can do if we get the stadium finished."

The work on the stadium will focus on putting seats in the currently unused second tier. Initial plans for the project included the possibility of adding a third tier and taking the capacity to 45,000.

The retail park, which will be called MK1, will include spaces for four major retailers.

Posted on 08/11/2011