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.
Speaking to the local media this week, John Afoa described the hard work that the Cherry and White have been putting in and that he is fighting fit ready for Saturday's European Rugby Challenge Cup semi final clash with Exeter Chiefs.
Gloucester Rugby face Exeter Chiefs this Saturday in the European Rugby Challenge Cup semi-final, and Charlie Sharples, who starts at full back is relishing the challenge of the big Kingsholm occasion.
Gloucester meet the Exeter Chiefs for the fourth time in competitive action this weekend, this time in the semi-final of the European Rugby Challenge Cup. Director of Rugby David Humphreys told the local media this week that this is the sort of game that Gloucester want to be involved in on a regular basis and that he and his team are looking forward to it.
Following the 29-26 loss to Harlequins, club captain Billy Twelvetrees spoke of his disappointment that the Cherry and Whites were unable to cash in on the home side's indiscipline and lose a lead on Saturday afternoon.
Number eight Gareth Evans admitted to a collective feeling of frustration as Gloucester lost narrowly at Harlequins on Saturday, but insisted that there are plenty of positives to draw upon ahead of next Saturday's European Rugby Challenge Cup semi-final at home to Exeter.
Gloucester travel to the Stoop on Saturday afternoon to take on Harlequins in the Aviva Premiership. The Cherry and Whites make just two changes from last weekend's win over Connacht as they seek consistency and continuity in their play as Nick Walshe told the local media this week.
Gloucester Rugby qualified for their first European final since 2006 as they defeated the in-form Exeter Chiefs by 30 points to 19 in a thrilling semi-final at Kingsholm on Saturday evening. The club photographer caught the best of the action.
Recent meetings between these two teams have often been thrillers, and this was no exception. It went down to the final few minutes, but Gloucester produced the goods when it mattered to qualify for the European Rugby Challenge Cup Final, beating Exeter 30-19.
Supporters who are still to purchase tickets for Saturday's European Rugby Challenge Cup semi-final at home to Exeter Chiefs at Kingsholm (kick off 7:45pm) are reminded that Early Bird prices are only valid until 6:30pm on Thursday evening.