Michael Eisner's grand North Stand vision for Fratton Park - and the pivotal role Portsmouth's rebuilt North Stand lower will play

The potential construction of a new North Stand at Fratton Park would incorporate the existing North Stand lower section.

Thursday, 30th September 2021, 2:26 pm
A rebuilt North Stand lower would be retained in any future North Stand development. Picture: Habibur Rahman

That’s the message from Steve Cripps, who insists the ongoing stadium redevelopment overseen by Tornante is not wasted money.

The £11.5m stadium improvement project, which is scheduled to finish in the summer of 2024, has initially focused on the North Stand.

The upper section, which involved the replacement of 3,400 seats and installation of safety barriers and new lights, was completed a fortnight ago.

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From December, attention will turn to the lower section, which, over two stages, will be bulldozed and rebuilt to meet safety requirements and add 700 more seats.

Of course, the long-term vision remains a new North Stand.

Pompey have steadily been buying up property behind the existing structure, in addition to their car park area.

A timescale for the ambitious project has still to be publicly revealed, yet is separate from the current four-phased redevelopment of Fratton Park.

A total of 3,400 seats have been replaced in North Stand upper. Picture: Habibur Rahman

And Cripps, managing director of PMC Construction and Development Services, is adamant the current programme of work enables the North Stand to be part of any future replacement.

He told The News: ‘The North Stand is being constructed in a way that enables the lower section to be in a legacy mode and a permanent measure.

‘The back of the North Stand (upper) can easily come off in years to come. Whenever that point is chosen for a new North Stand, the rear will be built over the new lower stand.

‘The lower will never be able to be removed again. By doing it that way, the club will always guarantee a capacity of 4,700 in the lower section while a new North Stand is being built, which is one of the big decisions.

The existing North Stand lower with its uneven steps. This section will be bulldozed and rebuilt during redevelopment. Picture: Habibur Rahman

‘A new roof would be cantilevered over and that section would remain.

‘I don’t know if you followed the Liverpool model in 2016. They built the stand in the car park, then overhung the roof over the existing Main Stand.

‘This is quite common now because they maintain some capacity in the lower areas. Taking out a whole new stand is quite complicated in terms of financials.

‘The North Stand (after current redevelopment) will definitely have a 10-year lifespan. The cladding, the roof, the seats, the electrics, everything is safeguarded in this stand.

The North Stand and improved upper tier seating, as seen from the South Stand. Picture: Habibur Rahman

‘Should the point come along to progress further, there is a column in that area which is the kink of the ground. Basically, the stand kinks because there is electrical infrastructure in the footpath outside which belongs to Network Rail.

‘Once that electrical mainway is diverted away from the club, there would be no kink in the North Stand again, it would be a parallel stand, which brings capacity to this area.

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‘That’s in years to come, but you are working on legacy, planning all these seats because they have to attach to this stand.

‘There have been a lot of drawings and detail which allows for that in the future.’

As previously reported in The News, the North Stand lower is expected to be finished by the summer of 2022.

In terms of the South Stand (Phase 3), work on that will commence in May 2022 and is pencilled in for completion in late September 2022.

Finally, Phase Four centres on the Milton End, which is anticipated to be a 12-month project and ready by the summer of 2024.

Cripps added: ‘There is no timeframe I am aware of for a new North Stand.

‘Michael is continually working on getting the other stands up together. The North Stand is one which will always be revisited.

‘It was important to get the North Stand lower right. The South Stand will be the permanent fixture, the Militon End is a permanent fixture, as is the Fratton End.

‘With the North Stand, it was more important to get the capacity maintained and all the health and safety areas fixed and out of the way – then Michael can come back to this as a stand-alone project.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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