GLOUCESTER RUGBY chairman Tom Walkinshaw, having taken into consideration the concerns of the supporters and significant difficulties associated with the construction of the temporary stand, has announced the Grandstand development at Kingsholm will now start in March 2007 and be completed for the 2007/8 season.
"Some of our most loyal supporters contacted us and said they were concerned that the plans to put a temporary stand up would deprive them of their favourite watching place for the year, especially on the terracing, so we have taken that on board," said club chairman Tom Walkinshaw.
"We are still determined that the re-development will go ahead. There are a lot of people in Gloucester who want things to happen and a lot who don't want any change. I'm afraid if they want a top-flight rugby club then there has to be change, which means we have to get bigger and better facilities."
The new Grandstand project will now start in March 2007, and still be ready for the start of the 2007/8 season and will increase Kingsholm's capacity from 12,500 to 17,500.
This means that the demolition of the Grandstand, scheduled for next Monday (July 10), will now not happen until the end of the 2006/7 season.
"We aren't touching it for the moment," Walkinshaw added. "We're going to do the full development, but from March so that we can get the job done. If you want a bigger grandstand there has to be a bit of pain somewhere. You cannot do it in the close season because it's too big a job.
"So you either eat into part of this season or part of the following season. We were going to start work on it and it would have been finished by February or March, which meant putting in temporary seats in place of the grandstand seats that are there now but you would have lost all the terracing in front of the grandstand, so you would be reducing the overall capacity by more than 1200 people.
"We were prepared to do that to get on with the work, but once we got the feedback we looked into whether we could do it any other way. We've worked with the contractors and they've said if they can get access to the site in March then, by prefabricating a lot of the steel work so that it's on site and ready to go, they could finish it by the end of August and be ready for the start of the following season.
"With the team doing so well last year, the feedback is that people would like to try and keep things the same for as long as we can, so March it is. At the end of the day if we want a new grandstand, then we need a certain amount of time to build it and that means there will be inconvenience and compromise - it's just a case of what that compromise is.
"This one now seems to address most of the issues of the people who contacted us. We need a new stadium and the capacity raised to keep us in line with the top teams in the league and that's all there is to it. At the moment 17,500 will be the biggest exclusively rugby stadium in the country and once it's full we can look at the next thing.
"We just have to do something at Kingsholm now to react to the demand from the spectators who want to see the games."
With such a short turnaround between the two games, and Gloucester looking to reintegrate several players into the line-up after the Autumn international series, Tom Savage told GRTV that the Cherry and Whites will keep changes to a minimum for the European Rugby Challenge Cup game in Zebre on Saturday.
Gloucester travel to Italy this weekend to take on Zebre in Round Four of the European Rugby Challenge Cup. The Cherry and Whites defeated the Italian side 35-10 last Sunday, but Director of Rugby David Humphreys is looking for an improved performance in the return fixture.
Skipper Billy Twelvetrees, speaking to GRTV after the 35-10 over Zebre, was happy with the bonus point win over the Italian side but admitted Gloucester will need to tighten up for the return fixture in Parma.
Matt Kvesic was a try scorer and recipient of the Man of the Match award in Sunday's 35-10 European Rugby Challenge Cup win over Zebre. He praised the Italian side for their spirited opposition and admitted that next week's return game will be a tough one.