How Portsmouth are bulldozing Fratton Park's North Stand to beat safety concerns and drive up capacity

The North Stand lower will effectively be bulldozed and built again to boost Fratton Park’s capacity.

By Neil Allen
Tuesday, 28th September 2021, 11:01 am

Around 700 additional seats are to be created by the massive reprofiling work scheduled to commence from December.

The project represents Phase 2 of an £11.5m redevelopment programme at the Blues’ 112-year home, which also consists of extensive work to the South Stand and a new Milton End.

Already new seating has been installed in the North Stand’s upper section, completed in time for the visit of Cambridge United earlier this month.

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Now attention has been turned to the lower section, which presently has around a quarter of its seats out of action due to safety issues.

Work on the stand’s western end (to the right when facing the pitch) is expected to be finished by late March.

From that point, focus will then be switched to the eastern end, to be completed by the summer.

Steve Cripps, managing director of PMC Construction and Development Services, told The News: ‘The North Stand work will be completed for the 2022-23 season.

North Stand lower, with its extra leg room, is to be reprofiled, with new seating to be built. Picture: Habibur Rahman

‘It will be touch and go whether every seat is ready for game one, but certainly every seat will be fully operational for game two.

‘The North Stand lower programme will begin in December in the western end, with fans given the opportunity to move to other parts of the stadium until it’s finished in late March.

‘Then they will be flipped back to the new western end to enable us to finish the eastern end.

‘There are approximately 2,300 season ticket holders in North lower. We believe we can work with minimal movement to other stands, maintaining fans’ seating arrangement in North lower.

The North Stand lower, with its uneven steps and large space between seats, is to undergo major work from December. Picture: Habibur Rahman

‘With the reprofiling, there will be a change to the seating, with North lower presently enjoying much larger leg room compared to any other seat in Fratton Park.

‘People have sat there for years and enjoyed the bigger leg room, but the reality is you don’t get this at any other stadium.

‘It will become standard size, which is used across all stadiums – and that will allow us to increase the capacity.’

In addition to creating new seating, walkways and steps, 12-18 more disabled seats will be introduced.

Around 1,000 seats have been declared out of use in North Stand lower due to safety issues. Picture: Habibur Rahman

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Of these, a number will be housed in North upper, towards the corner adjacent with the Milton End, with a lift installed for access.

Meanwhile, Cripps has explained the reasoning behind seemingly intact seats rendered out of action for supporters in North Stand lower this season, drawing some fan criticism.

He added: ‘We have a stand capacity issue, not individual seat problems.

‘The North Stand lower’s capacity is currently restricted by the P factor. That section has uneven steps and pinch points, all of which lowers the overall P factor.

‘That means we have nearly 1,000 seats not in use at present. There are 4,016 in this stand, so, in crude terms, that’s a quarter not used.

Work has now been completed in North Stand upper, with the lower section (below the pictured walkway) to be addressed from December. Picture: Habibur Rahman

‘As soon as we can raise that limit, we will. To move the safety number, we have to justify the increase to the local authority. That is what we are in the process of doing, through stadium work and collecting data.

‘We require data to demonstrate the stand’s access and egress routes. For instance, when the stand is fully loaded, some areas come under stress and the club need to provide flow rates and document spectator movement through the stand to the final exit.

‘We require a good few games of data before we are able to go back to the local authority and apply for an improved P factor for the stand.

‘At the moment, we have only just come back from being behind closed doors, so trying to get that data has not been easy.

‘Hopefully after the Sunderland game, when we would expect a much bigger crowd, it will yield much better data.

‘From there, we are looking to release some of these seats.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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