CHRISTMAS appears to be coming early for Derry City Football Club with the news that City Council has finally secured a massive £5 million to refurbish the delapidated Brandywell Stadium.
But it’s not just the rapidly ageing facility which is set for a facelift, as facilities in the nearby Brandywell Showgrounds and Daisyfield areas are also to be brought up to modern-day sporting standards.
Accordong to well placed scources, I can reveal that after months of negotiation with the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, plus the formulation and presentation of a detailed business plan, Derry City Council has now secured the funding and an announcement is understood to be imminent.
In addition to the construction of a new stand on the Lone Moor Road side of the ground - which will see the demolition of the current Glentoran Stand - a new 4G pitch will also be laid, replacing the grass surface which has been maintained there since the stadium was built during the early 1900’s.
And with the laying of the artificial surface, the Brandywell’s historic slope which has, for so long, proved to be problematic in terms of staging European football matches, will finally be removed.
It’s understood the new stand is expected to incorporate spacious, state of the art changing rooms built underneath; seating accommodation for in the region of 3,000 spectators; full media facilities and adminisration offices.
And it’s also been suggested that part of the new stand will actually accommodate supporters who prefer to use the terraces, but provision will also be made for temporary seating in that particular area should such be required for high profile fixtures and European matches.
While many expected the new stand on the Lone Moor Road to replicate the current Southend Park Stand, it’s believed the new facility would have more in common with the new stand erected at Owenbeg, the Derry G.A.A. headquarters, located just outside Dungiven.
With the demolition of the Glentoran Stand, Derry City Council have also taken into account the “wear and tear” of the current Southend Park Stand, that facility build during the early 1990’s.
In fact, the funding boost will also cover the vital refurbishment of that facility, including the area underneath the stand which housesthe toilets and associated facilities.
Greyhounds on the move to showgrounds?
However, one stake holding organisation which has not been included in the upgrade of the stadium is the Brandywell Greyhound Racing Company.
That grouping, which has been associated with the facility for well over 100 years, will now be relocated in the nearby Brandywell Showgrounds with a new track provided by the Council.
With health and safety legislation now considered a major player in any form of construction, the powers that be insist that the dog track and associated facilities must be relocated.
So the new track will be accompanied by up to date kennel facilities, bookmaking facilities and covered accommodation for the local greyhound racing enthusiasts.
And while dog racing will move to the Showgrounds, football will continued to be played there with the upgrading of the football pitches.
The Daisyfield, meanwhile, will receive an additional artificial pitch with the current grass pitch to be refurbished.
Public Consultation on Complex Future
It’s clear, therefore, that the Derry City Council is certainly attempting to address the lack of provision for football pitches in the council’s area, a criticism which has been levelled at the local administrators over recent years.
And with the local authority currently involved in a consultation process with members of the general public in relation to the future development of the Templemore Sports Complex - which is also in urgent need of refurbishment - it would appear that sport and leisure is firmly back on the agenda of the “City Fathers.”
There’s no doubt that the provision of additional pitches will be warmly welcomed locally, but it will be interesting to note the response from Derry City Football Club in relation to playing their home games on a state of the art 4G pitch.
But from the Council’s point of view, 3 and 4G pitches require the minimal maintenance and can be in use in most weather conditions 52 weeks a year