WELL, the sun is out, the cladding is up, the windows are going in and things are really taking shape, now, so I thought it timely to add some detail to what you have all been seeing.
In fact, when I say ‘all been seeing’, the pics from Dave Rowntree on the OS and those on GoS (replacing the Sunday Times as THE weekend reading material of choice) have been fantastic, have they not? Add to that the wonderful drone footage shot by Gary Lovejoy and the really positive coverage from the Herald. I’m pretty sure that I can say without fear of correction that this is one of the most recorded-in-detail construction projects in Plymouth’s history!!
Goodness me - with the sun shining on the old gal, she is looking swell, is she not? I genuinely think the grandstand is looking magnificent, and I promise you that even the brilliant photos that I have mentioned above do not do justice to the awesome feel that you get when you stand on the bottom row of the lower stand and look up at the new roofline, towering - what? - 60-70 feet above you.
Going back to the pics, it is worth bearing in mind that sometimes the camera can be just a little misleading at times. The cladding for example, is all brand new, the same colour (apart from where it is deliberately grey) and from the same supplier.
Where panels have been left on top of a pile, they get covered in dust – not an issue as all of the cladding will be power-washed prior to handover – but the pics have led to some concerns from some people about the condition...it is all good, I promise!
As an Eggbuckland boy, and lifelong Argyle fan, I cannot tell you how proud I am at what we are achieving – I have said to both Jane and Simon Hallett (and James [Brent] and Tony [Hopwood], too) that they should be so really proud at the legacy. As you may be able to tell, I am getting to the point of (almost) starting to feel excited now that I can see everything taking shape.
It is when you step into the huge new entertainment area that it really hits you – we’re going to have 440 people comfortably seatec in there (we could have squeezed in many more, but this number will give a feel of ‘excellence’) enjoying an unrivalled match-day experience when the footy is on, and the different spaces, views and flexibility of layout will be incredibly attractive to companies and organisations looking to host events and conferences. Believe it or not, legally, we could have 1,200 people in the main space if we wanted to use it as a standing bar!
Indeed, as someone who used to arrange large-scale corporate get-togethers in a previous life, I know that there is nothing in our area to rival what Home Park will be offering in just a few months’ time. We are setting out to complement what the rest of our beautiful city offers, rather than compete, and cannot wait to open the doors and show fans and the wider communities and businesses of Plymouth (and indeed the South West) what their glorious new facility will look like.
My colleague Christian is in charge of conferencing and hospitality, so keep an eye out for what he’ll be bringing your way – his inaugural event (our hugely successful ‘Evening with Abba’) was very much just a taster as to what Home Park Stadium will offer going forward. With our ‘We Will Rock You’ evening coming in September, and two big non match-day bookings already being readied for inside the Mayflower Grandstand (and if you have not yet booked – grab the city’s hottest NYE ticket NOW) things are really starting to feel real.
Since I last wrote, we have finished the players’ facilities with just a few touches of polish to go before we show the waiting world. Ryan and the team are already using them, and I’m beyond delighted as to how positive the feedback has been.
The grandstand moves on apace every day too – if you remember what I wrote an age ago, I always said that this would be the exciting bit. The pace has not picked up, as such, but the work that was being undertaken a year or so ago – drainage, foundations, services, etc., etc. – were always the bits you could not see, and the really visual stuff that we are now seeing gives the appearance that it is happening much quicker. But it is not – it is all on track as planned a year ago by our trusted main contractor, GLe UK (more or less, eh boys?).
One of the many things that has happened this week is that the new sound system for the stadium’s south side has gone in - and what a system it is! The huge new speakers themselves are works of art, and such is the quality of this system – which rolls the critical safety systems and entertainment systems into one – that is being put into some of the best stadia around, including so I am told, Tottenham’s billion-pound home.
We are also improving the sound system across the rest of the stadium and will plan a further rolling upgrade year on year to ensure that everyone has the same highest of quality sound available to them. In fact, we are planning on doing quite a lot to the Devonport, Lyndhurst and Barn Park concourses, too, so wherever you sit, you will not feel left out!
I will not go on too much about costs, but it may interest some of you to know that this new sound system is nott far off £200k’s-worth of investment alone (and would have been far more if it was not for the help and support of our superb partners, Securi-Guard, a truly brilliant Plymouth-based company and a wonderfully dedicated set of fans). Incidentally, that eye-watering figure is also the same as the worth of our new kitchen that we are installing, which must be almost five times the size of our old one. With the cutting-edge appliances that we are installing, a delicious welcome awaits.
So to timings – pretty much ‘as was’ to be honest. We are still looking to take full, final handover in the last quarter of 2019, with conferencing and hospitality bookings now being taken for the last week of December and beyond.
I am still finalising the first draft of our test events programme, which will need ratifying through the Safety Advisory Group that helps us ensure that everyone that uses the stadium is safe, but it is progressing well. This will inform the first use of both the lower and upper Mayflower stands, but I am desperately keen to have 18,000 of us sitting in the Theatre of Greens watching a top-of-the-table Argyle play Swindon Town on New Year’s Day.
No pressure, then.
Speak soon, and of course, Keep it Green.