It has been a fair few months since Fulham announced the ambitious plan to expand a stand to increase the capacity of the Cottage. Following an extremely positive (and I dare say, extremely biased) poll, 94% of “people” (Fulham fans) asked supported the decision to expand Craven Cottage and again, 75% of those agreed that the Riverside Stand was the best stand to be expanded. And I have to say that I unreservedly agree with this- The Johnny Haynes Stand is an untouchable masterpiece of style, elegance and history, the Putney End would only add extra seats for “neutrals” and away fans, whilst the Hammersmith End is nearly impossible to build back on. The Riverside is the perfect choice-traditionally the “hospitality” stand, we could easily make it into the flagship stand of Craven Cottage and it has room to build back on (albeit, into the river) and can hold a lot of seats due to the fact that it runs along the side of the hallowed turf. Fulham chose the Riverside and let their plans loose in early January, and I had a good look at them the other day.
Fulham plan a striking, sophisticated and stylish new stand that curves with the river. The new stand will contain an extra tier, adding 3941 seats, 36 wheelchair spaces and almost 1140 hospitality spaces. It contains a sumptuously designed roof that peaks at 39.8 metres high and contains a small replica of the famous Wembley Arch meaning that the infamous complaint of “restricted view” seats is no longer a problem. It houses almost 45 new commentary positions and 5 new camera points, and has 4 flats contained in the design (A dream for all Fulham fans). Mohamed Al-Fayed also gets a box fit for Fulham Legends in the shape of a glorious Chairman’s Box, which contains a balcony over the river and prime seats in the middle of the stand. A new club shop and café will be built alongside the glorious new Riverside walk, which again curves with the River and finally reconnects the Riverside Walk all the way along to Hammersmith, a vision that Fulham have held for many a year.
But when is it all going to start? Well, the consultation period finished on the 20th of February and I’m not expert in planning, but I presume a planning hearing will be held in the following weeks. Fulham wish to start in the 2012 close season and they approximate that it would take almost a year to build. It would start with the reinforcement of the river wall and the building of the new Riverside Walk, which would completed before the new 2012/13 season started. During the season, the pace of build would continue: the stand will literally be constructed around the current one and all work (minus taking the roof off the old Putney End) would be finished by the end of the season. The finishing touches would be applied during the summer of 2013.
Some people might have read that paragraph and gone “Wait, they’re going to build round the stand? How are they going to manage that?” Here’s how:
Adding to that, for about 2 months in the season the Riverside Stand will contain a phenomenon that has rarely, if all, been seen at a Premier League football stand.It will contain not one, but two roofs. Yes, two roofs. Only at Fulham…
With the notoriously tight planning rules Fulham have had to make this stand eco-friendly. Not only does the design allow for 2 solar panels to be instead at either end of the stand on the roof, but the rain water that falls on it goes into a water reuse system- so the water in the toilets could have been in the clouds just a day before. Smart. It gets better: the materials for the project will not arrive by car, or train, or plane, or bike. Nope. They will arrive by barge. Only at Fulham does the new stand get built through a barge.
The Hospitality Boxes at both the Riverside Ends of the Hammersmith and Putney Ends will be removed, giving the Hammersmith end a small increase of 302 seats and the Putney end an increase of 32 seats. *That* statue would also have to be removed, unfortunately.
For a while, when I started to support Fulham back in 2001 (aged just 6!) my father and I used to park next to the Hammersmith Town Hall and walk all the way along the river to the Ground. It was wonderful, but one thing I noticed at night games was the fact that as soon you got round the bend in the river the Riverside Stand Floodlights were instantly obvious and, even from there, lit the river quite stunningly at times. However, the light pollution from them must have been awful at times, so Fulham now have a new set of smaller flood lights that hang on the roof and onto the pitch, reducing the light pollution.
I believe that it will be given the go ahead- it pumps 30 million into the local economy, creates 265 temporary jobs and 159 match day positions at a time where the local economy needs all it can to get going. It opens up the walk and brings people to the area to spend money. It’s a win-win situation for the council and the economy.
On a personal view I am immensely proud that Fulham have set out the ambition to build such a stand. They have created a flowing, elegant stand that doesn’t stick out, but rather fits in to and adds to what is already a beautiful old ground. It sets out a vision, a vision that we are here to stay, that we are a team to be taken seriously. It combines the best of Fulham- beauty and class into one stunning stand.
I am proud to be a Fulham fan.
For more Fulham ramblings, follow me on twitter @willpaul25
NB: Some Fulham fans have set up a petition to name the new stand the “Mohamed Al-Fayed Stand”. If you agree with them, and would like to sign the petition it can be found here at http://www.petitionbuzz.com/petitions/alfayedstand