IN his third blog on the ongoing development at Home Park, Argyle's Head of Operations Jon Back discusses what is coming down, and what is going where...
JUNE is here, and as the heat sinks into the renovated Home Park pitch, pushing green shoots beyond the muddied surface, so the metaphor can be stretched to the green shoots of progress in the pitch’s concrete neighbours.
Complicating the allegory is the fact that, in the grandstand development’s case, we must destroy before we can create. So, in this still relatively early phase, we are still at the destructive part of the project.
The Home Park horizon is beginning to change. The Far Post club and associated buildings has now been completely levelled. The crumbling former offices on the perimeter, near the iconic façade and turnstiles, on your right as you enter, are gone. The small stand on the corner of Mayflower and Devonport, formerly emblazoned with Burt’s Chips, is also dismantled.
In recent times, this has been our stand for supporters with disabilities. We recognise that this coming season is going to bring some challenges as far as our disabled supporters are concerned, and we are extremely grateful to PADSA (Plymouth Argyle Disabled Supporters Association) for their help and guidance through this process, as well as for the most-important constructive challenges they present us.
In 2019-20, when the development is done, the choices we will have for disabled supporters will be our best ever. Our gratitude towards PADSA extends to its members and volunteers; our working relationship, based on mutual trust and regular dialogue, is a very effective way of making progress.
Anyone taking a stroll past Home Park, heading to the Life Centre or going to our shop or ticket office will already see a visible difference. Come August, when Sky Bet League One football returns to the Theatre Of Greens, there will be many more distinctions.
By this point, all of the Grandstand, and the facilities within, will be completely closed to the public. This includes all facilities, toilets, dressing rooms, the boardroom – the lot.
Therefore, plenty of things are on the move. We are in the process of finalising arrangements for corporate hospitality. This is likely to be a one-off, unique prospect for next season. A bit of an ‘I was there’ time in our history. We will keep you posted.
The Directors’ Box; VIPs, Sponsors and corporate guests will be located towards the east end of the Lyndhurst stand, in what we often colloquially call ‘Zoo Corner’.
Incidentally, I recently found a brilliant old photo which shows the zoo behind the Barn Park End. I can still remember as a boy standing on the floodlight of the old Spion Kop, hearing the occasional roar of the lions & trumpet of the elephant particularly it seemed on balmy, sun-drenched days when the on-field play was a touch, shall we say, languid?
We get asked a peculiar amount of questions about capacity, so I will address that particular elephant in the zoo and say our match-day capacity for 2018-19 will be in the region of 12,500, with a proportional drop in the seating for away supporters.
Much work has gone into the dual sciences of segregations and safety, to get as many people into home Park as we can – but safely, and comfortably. Next season will see a slightly different approach, with more seats now eligible for purchase because of reduced ‘sterile’ areas.
This work is all planned by our excellent safety team. I instinctively went to call them the match-day safety team, which is more accurately their nominal title, but so much goes into match-day safety than rocking up at Home Park at 1pm and checking bottle tops. Days and weeks of preparation goes into formulating the best approach to each individual game which includes close collaboration with my trusted ex-colleagues in our local constabulary; the Devon & Cornwall Police.
We have had feedback from the EFL re our stewards and I am delighted to say that following a number of ‘mystery shopper’ visits, we have recently been notified that our 2017-18 match-day stewarding approach was formally assessed as being amongst the very best in the country by visiting fans. Well done to all involved.
In the next blog, we will take a look at some design details you can expect to in the new look Home Park.
Keep it Green!
Project Manager and Head of Operations
For the first two iterations of the Development Blog, visit the Blog's page here.
The homepage for the Development mini-site is at pafc.co.uk/development