Portsmouth's South Stand 'transformation' - with a nod to preserving the structure's rich 96-year history

Michael Eisner’s favourite Pompey stand will undergo a ‘transformation’ – but with strict instructions to retain its historic charm.

By Neil Allen
Wednesday, 29th September 2021, 4:54 pm
The lower section of Fratton Park's South Stand will be replaced by an entirely new stand structure. Earmarked for completion by September 2022. Picture: Habibur Rahman
The lower section of Fratton Park's South Stand will be replaced by an entirely new stand structure. Earmarked for completion by September 2022. Picture: Habibur Rahman

Work on the South Stand is set to commence in May 2022, representing Phase 3 of the £11.5m Fratton Park redevelopment project.

According to Steve Cripps, managing director of PMC Construction and Development Services, the lower section will become unrecognisable during approximately four months of work.

Primarily, this consists of an entirely new seating structure being introduced, stretching from the middle of the South Stand and giving the entire stand a continuous tier.

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This will be positioned over the existing lower section, with that area subsequently being turned into a wider concourse underneath, offering improved concessions facilities.

And at the heart of it will be revitalising the stand’s truss, an original feature of the treasured Archibald Leitch construction which was opened in 1925.

Cripps told The News: ‘The South Stand is a highly complicated one to work with. It’s historic and also Michael’s favourite.

‘He is very insistent that we retain as much of the infrastructure in this one as possible, so the truss will be salvaged and come into play.

Steve Cripps, managing director of PMC Construction and Development Services. The Cosham-based company are undertaking the £11.5m Fratton Park development project. Picture: Habibur Rahman

‘The stand will be completely different in its look. It will be a fluent stand coming straight down to the pitch edge, replacing the lower section.

‘The hanging basket section, which was bolted onto the truss in Premier League days and has since corroded, will be removed, as will the signage on the truss.

‘That means we will be exposing the truss pitch side, so people can physically see it, as you do at Everton, Preston and Glasgow Rangers.

‘We don’t actually rely on the truss structure anymore as it lost its stability many, many years ago, hence additional columns being put in to take reliance of it. But it’s a feature which will be brought back.

The South Stand dug-outs will also change as part of the stand's development. Picture: Habibur Rahman

‘A lot of work has gone into this and the match experience will be completely different, these lower sections will be transformed.

‘Some of these new seats replacing the lower section will have a sight line of C80-C100, which is the perfect sight line.

‘The concept of this stand is not quantity, more quality. We may even lose a small amount of capacity, but will deliver 100 per cent quality.’

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The South Stand's truss, located in the centre, will be exposed more to reflect the stand's history. Picture: Habibur Rahman

A structure to cover the lower section will be made off-site and added to the existing section, thereby ensuring the construction timeframe is significantly reduced.

Meanwhile, the South Stand is due to have a new television gantry introduced at a date to be finalised, while all seats are to be replaced to mirror the style and colour of those already added to the North Stand upper.

In addition, the distinctive moat in front of the South stand, the scourge of so many players over the years, will be covered by the new stand’s seating.

Although it will remain in use underneath, holding power lines and Sky cables.

And Cripps is anticipating the extensive South Stand work to be completed by late September 2022.

He added: ‘We plan to start in the second to last game of the season, while we think we’ll end up venturing into a few of the home games of the following campaign.

‘Overall, the lower selection will probably be out for two games, possibly coming into use in early September.

‘There is no time to play with this one because, don’t forget, it holds the players’ dug-outs, which will become integral to the stand.

‘Even after September, there will be works ongoing. Don’t get me wrong, just because we open the complete South Stand, the improvements will be carried into December, picking off these improvements.’

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