STEWART Donald, chairman of Vanarama Conference new boys Eastleigh, believes the club’s new stand due for construction will change the feel of the Silverlake Stadium.
The 2,300-seater stand has been given the thumbs up by Eastleigh Borough Council as phase two of the planning permission application has been granted, writes Kieran James.
Groundwork is due to take place within the next few weeks and the stand, that will be placed at the motorway end of the stadium, is aimed to be completed by October.
The north and east terracing was completed in time for the recent goal-packed home friendly against Crawley Town which ended in a 3-3 draw.
It’s all part of the Spitfires’ plan to get the stadium up to Football League standard – something Donald believes they are close to achieving.
Thanking the local authority for their support, he said: “The council has helped us all the way along.
“We were pretty confident we would get it (the planning permission) because we work very closely with them.
“The new stand will change the feel of the football ground.
“The terracing has come in now and I think that has had a very good response from the fans.
“It does feel different already, but to have 19 rows of seats behind the goal in a stand that will seat six times as many people as we’ve already got will transform the ground to one that feels like a proper football ground.”
When asked how far the ground is from Football League standard, the Oxford-based chief executive of Bridle Insurance, who owns the majority of the club, said: “Not far.
“I think you need to have a capacity of 5,000 to be playing League football or the ability to get your ground to 5,000.
“We are just below that now once the stand is completed which we hope to have done by September/October.
“With a little bit more work down the main stand side, which I don’t think will be a massive amount, we will be at Football League standard.”
Donald added: “We are looking at the possibility of getting help from the Football Conference for the main stand.
“But what we don’t want to do is slow down the process of the build because we only have until March to get the standards we need to make sure that we are not thrown out of the Conference.
“If waiting for the grant means that we won’t hit that timescale then we will have to just get on with it and hope we might get some grant money.”
Donald gave a huge vote of thanks to all the fans that have worked throughout the summer to help the club achieve the deadlines for the terracing to be put up.
Supporters have toiled tirelessly to take down old dugouts, turnstiles, seating at the motorway end... to name but a few jobs, and Donald acknowledged: “I am absolutely delighted with the fans.
“There has been an awful lot to do in loads of different areas of the ground.
“Without the fans I don’t think we would have made the deadlines we needed to make.
“You cannot underestimate how hard some of them have worked and, also, it’s been very pleasing seeing new faces here lending a hand."
Richard Hill's Conference South champions begin their big adventure into the Vanarama Conference at Nuneaton Town on Saturday.