Summer revamp at the SoL

by Stuart Vose

Hard work behind the scenes ahead of new season.

The close season has seen the pace ramped up for the team responsible for maintaining and improving the Stadium of Light.

The final whistle of the last home game far from signals a break – instead it’s the facilities department’s signal to get cracking on their close-season schedule.

Facilities manager Peter Weymes is the man charged with overseeing the huge task, supported by [head of technical services] Mark Carrier and an army of workers.

As well as the busy summer concert schedule, Peter and his team work through the club’s capital investment plan, continually updating the club’s magnificent home.

More than 120,000 music fans have already passed through the Stadium of Light this summer and, with the new season already on the horizon, there’s plenty to do.

“We are fortunate to have a fantastic team of people here,” said Peter.

“They have worked extremely hard all summer through the concerts and we have a programme of refurbishment and renewal alongside that in line with the club’s plan.

“This takes in a number of areas to ensure the Stadium of Light remains in the best possible condition and fully compliant with all current requirements.”

As part of the increased package of TV rights, clubs are mandated to upgrade their media facilities and this represents a significant investment both in terms of money and time.

One of the most noticeable changes for fans arriving at the first home game against Fulham in August will be the press box, which has already been removed from its familiar position just behind the away dug-out.

Instead journalists will now be housed in a new and improved area at the top of the Premier Concourse, where a new TV gantry has already been installed.

Meanwhile a new broadcast studio is also being installed, while the outside compound for TV vehicles is being enlarged and additional areas being set aside for interviews amongst a whole host of other required changes.

“The new media facilities are one of four main issues we’re addressing,” Peter explained.

“We also have the installation of the goal-line technology system, Hawkeye, which works from a number of cameras strategically installed in the roof.

“We’re also installing a new system to monitor the position of players on the pitch, plus a provision to allow live feeds of games to be sent to the Premier League.

“The TV gantry is already done but has yet to be wired – we’ve already installed a lot of hard wiring into the stadium but the new work will represent almost three times that.

“There will also be new press seating either side of the gantry as well as in front, and we’ve already converted the old press box back into seating.”

And there’s a long list of other tasks, including the changes to the press lounge and interview areas and redecoration of a number of areas, repairs and repainting to the roof and steelwork and much more.

There’s also close-season works going on at the Academy of Light and the Eppleton Colliery Welfare Ground, where a new pitch and irrigation system is being installed.

That’s not to mention the main pitch itself at the Stadium of Light, which is progressing rapidly ahead of the first league game in a month’s time.

The summer may be the busiest time of the season for Peter and his team – but it’s a challenge they relish.