The new 3,700 Brandywell, replete with a 3G synthetic pitch, new and refurbished toilets, new changing rooms, media facilities, meeting spaces and a safety control centre, will be ready by Christmas prior to the official handover to Derry City and Strabane District Council at the start of 2018.
Barry O’Hagan, Head of Leisure and Community Development, and Frank Morrison, Head of Capital Development and Building Control at the local authority, confirmed this week that the ground redevelopment is well on track for completion within the next couple of months.
“We’re delighted in terms of where we are at. We are a number of months out from the [whole] stadium, the greyhound track and the football stadium being completed,” said Mr. O’Hagan.
Progress on the site itself, which has been driven forward by contractor McAleer and Teague Ltd. over the past year, is now apparent to anyone visiting the site.
The new 950 seater stand, for example, is now structurally complete. Equally so, the new greyhound track at the old showgrounds section next door.
“They are making very good progress, the dog track is now substantially complete, it’s largely site works now to be finished off in and around the track,” said Mr. Morrison.
Although the ground is provisionally due for completion by December, the handover to council will not take place until the beginning of January.
There will then be a four or five week period to allow for training and insurance issues to be tied up.
“Certainly, we’re hoping to take over operation of the stadium, to get in and get our staff in and trained, early in the New Year with the proviso that within four to five weeks we’ll be operational and open to the public.
“We haven’t a definitive handover date but that will become apparent to us within the next number of weeks. That’s the hope, that we’ll be ready for the 2018 season,” explained Mr. O’Hagan.
As for the new 3G pitch, it will be laid in stages over the next several weeks.
“Here in the stadium we now have a stone sub-base in for the pitch. In the next week they’ll commence the bitmac base course over that, then a rubber shock pad, and then the synthetic grass goes down then,” said Mr. Morrison.
Next year, when Derry and the leagues aren’t using the ground, members of the public can enjoy the novelty of hiring the Brandywell pitch out for matches, something that should prove a council revenue-driver.
“It will be open all year, regardless of the weather, for playing, training, for the football club, for the local leagues, and for the local community groups to book it out on evenings and weekends. There will be an open call for the booking facility. We’ll be open six days a week, Monday through to Saturday, open to 10 o’clock at night. There’s a huge benefit. The Executive Office and central government have helped us fund the 3G pitch, and one of their targets is that it’s open to the public,” said Mr. O’Hagan.
And as for the infamous Brandywell toilets?
“We’ll have new toilet blocks on either side of the new stand and then we are refurbishing the toilet blocks beneath the old South End stand,” said Mr. Morrison.
“It’s certainly a huge improvement from the old Brandywell when we closed this time last year,” said Mr. O’Hagan.