GLOUCESTER RUGBY are delighted to announce that work on a new 7,500-seater grandstand at Kingsholm will begin immediately, increasing the capacity of the stadium from 12,500 to 17,500 for the start of the 2007/8 season.
The decision to announce the start of the development has been fuelled by the remarkable demand for seated season tickets in both the Buildbase Stand and Grandstand that were sold out last Friday in a little under a month after going on sale.
The old grandstand and bars will be demolished in early July and a covered stand erected temporarily in its place until the end of the 2006/7 season. All Grandstand ticket holders will be given replacement seats in similar locations as in the existing grandstand and will be closer to the pitch. Other facilities such as toilets, bars, changing rooms and press facilities will also be temporarily relocated.
Demolition will start on July 10 and the foundations and drainage are scheduled to be completed by September, giving time to accommodate any archaeological problems that may occur. The building process will then re-commence at the end of the season and the new stand will be ready for the start of the 2007-8 campaign.
Gloucester chairman Tom Walkinshaw said of the plans: "We appreciate the announcement and the timing of the development has come quickly, particularly after the club have already sold season tickets in huge numbers, but it is essential work starts on this project now.
"The need for this development has been driven on the back of the demand for tickets in seating areas that are now sky-high and means we simply cannot wait until the end of the coming season to start this project.
"Essentially there is no good time to begin work on such a large scale. We need the understanding of our supporters at this time so they can get right behind the project because these improvements will be for them.
"There is a clear need to improve the seating provisions we have at Kingsholm and to update the facilities and with this development we can achieve it.
"The existing stadium is now unable to meet the demands of new sponsors, commercial partners and supporters and this is limiting our ability to develop the team. We risk falling behind our competitors both on and off the pitch.
"It's an ambitious scheme but one the club needs so it can continue to thrive."
The new stand will take the capacity at Kingsholm to 17,500 for the start of the 2007/8 season, making it one of the largest capacity rugby grounds in the country and it will replace an existing structure that will soon not fully comply with the strict regulations imposed by the Rugby Football Union that ultimately threaten Gloucester's participation in the Guinness Premiership.
This is a revised version of the previous scheme for which planning permission still exists. Revisions have been submitted to Gloucester City Council and will be considered on 2nd August.
Gloucester Rugby have made no secret of the fact they are interested in any possible development at the Railway Triangle but this current development at Kingsholm would not prevent any future financial contribution to that project.
The ticket office will remain in its current position. The club's planned Open Day will be cancelled until later in the season and the Sports Relief event will be held at King's School.
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.
Gloucester Rugby welcome Sione Kalamafoni, Greig Laidlaw and Tom Palmer back to the starting line up and feature David Halaifonua in a matchday squad for the first time, as they resume Aviva Premiership action against Bath Rugby at Kingsholm on Saturday (kick off 5:30pm).