The new Windsor Park Stadium development continues at pace with permanent Linfield access to the Railway and South stands being planned for early January. Both the IFA Project team and that of the contractors O'Hare and McGovern (OHMG) have made good progress, given the complications surrounding the planned demolition of the South Stand and the unplanned demolition of the Kop Stand having been major delaying factors.
The need to operate Windsor Park as a working stadium for international and domestic games has also been contributory since no construction work was permissible for two days in advance of each international game, and the Health & Safety issues to allow for maximum ground capacity necessitated major additional temporary construction work. The Stadium Manager, Louise Doyle, together with her H&S team, have done an excellent job in keeping the show on the road without affecting the Safety Certificate or upsetting the UEFA stadium operational code.
Once we gain access a period of some weeks will be required to test and certify all the components of the building before supporters are allowed to use the new stands. The beginning of February is the target date for regular match day use.
LFC Directors and staff will move into our new office accommodation in December, but both this and the new ground floor shop directly beneath will not have public access until after the test period. The club will continue to operate from the office in Midgley Park, and a temporary shop will operate during match days from one of the voids at the back of the North Stand from the middle of November until the end of January.
Total completion of the stadium will be later in 2016. A completely new Kop Stand will be built and aesthetically merged with the South Stand. Building of this will require access for construction at the Midgley Park end of the North Stand so this end will not be completed until the same time. Also, to minimise disruption to the management of fixtures, it has been decided to delay construction of the roof covering of the North Stand concourse until the close season.
The LFC Board, together with input from supporters, is working on ideas about how best to use the excellent facilities coming our way and some of these proposals will only be practicable at the start of the 2016/17 season. The South Stand, seating just over 5,000 within its upper and lower decks, has three different seat types, all very comfortable. The central area has the optimum quality and for the new season it may be that members will adopt a ‘premier ticket’ scheme to occupy these seats. There is disability viewing in both levels.
Initially, until we are up and running and our required usage is better determined, basic hospitality in the South Stand will be provided through the kiosks on the ground floor and in a supporters’ match day bar facility located in large area within the south-west quadrant. Directors and sponsors will use the central function room at the back of the lower tier. In due courses three levels of hospitality can be provided, ordinary level as above, use of the function rooms for a sit-down meal and the corporate boxes for a high-level experience. Packages for this will be developed when the new caterer is appointed shortly.
Members and supporters are also aware that the Midgley Park joint venture with the Belfast City Council and the IFA is underway, with the gradual emergence of the new Olympia leisure centre already in evidence. A three-phased project to develop the LFC component begins in October 2016 and will provide a newly oriented floodlit full-sized all weather pitch, a pavilion, a small stand and a sizeable car park, all within the ownership of Linfield. The project will be completed by December 2017.
With a feature boulevard entrance from the Boucher Road, the transformation of both Windsor and Midgley Park will provide a superb platform for the progress of Linfield Football Club through the twenty-first century.
Much more detail including an information evening will be provided as we come closer to the opening of the stands.