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Watford's new East Stand at Vicarage Road will almost certainly be opened in sections
The new East Stand at Vicarage Road will almost certainly be opened in sections and won't be fully completed in time for the start of the 2014/15 season.
Watford are hopeful part of the stand will be in use during the first home game of the Championship season on August 9.
But the decision in March to extend the stand the full length of the pitch and also the decision to enlarge the changing rooms, which was made in May, has resulted in additional work which will push back a full opening.
The club had initially planned to use the footprint of the old East Stand structures which ended around the penalty spot at the Vicarage Road end. The old retaining wall at the back of the stand was scheduled to remain and this would have helped speed up the building process.
The new structure, which the Hornets named The Watford FC Community Stand, was initially scheduled to be built in two parts and the club had hoped to open the first section early this year once the new changing rooms were installed, with the rest completed by this summer.
But then the Hornets' hierarchy decided the new stand would look better if it went the full length of the pitch. The extra section will add an additional 800 new seats, taking the capacity of the new stand to around 3,400, but will also add time to the building schedule.
Watford also decided to make the changing rooms bigger last month and this meant the retaining wall at the back of the stand needed to be knocked down and new piling and concrete walls installed, which wasn't initially planned.
The Watford Observer was contacted by someone claiming they had been told the East Stand would not be fully complete until November. The Hornets refused to comment on the matter this week but a source close to the club stated that was not true and it would be fully completed before then, although the Golden Boys have not set a deadline for completion.
The same source denied claims the club had decided to change the company installing the changing rooms, which may have led to further delays, and stated asbestos found was expected and cleared within two days this week.
In the past Watford have stated a desire to complete the structure within a time frame but have not set strict deadlines for completion, which has been a factor in the decision to adapt the stand during the building process.
The annual accounts for the year ending June 2013 said it was expected to cost £1.68m and that had increased to around £3m by November. The decision to extend the stand the full length of the pitch was expected to increase the figure to £3.5m and making the changing rooms bigger has added add additional expense.
However, we have been told the Pozzo family were happy to pay the extra money to ensure an impressive stand was built. We have also been told the Pozzos are paying for the development in its entirety.
The club, demolition firm Gaywood and construction company GL Events have refused to comment on the development of the East Stand in the last two weeks.
Three weeks ago, chief executive Scott Duxbury said: "The club’s goal is and always has been to have The Watford FC Community Stand fully open for the start of the new season.
"Like any large-scale multi-million pound construction project, progress is always subject to change due to a number of factors and complexities which are encountered during works.
"All parties are working tirelessly together to achieve our shared goal, although ultimately there are no deadlines set in terms of wanting to see a fully-completed, fully functional stand - something everyone at Watford has hoped for over a considerable number of years."
He added: "If we’re not able to open the whole stand at the first opportunity, then we would of course seek to accommodate as many supporters as possible with a part opening of the stand."
Watford have prioritised building the East Stand over the South-West Corner and project management of the development next to the Rous Stand was handed to Centerplate last year, after the US stadium construction company acquired catering firm Lindley, who already had a deal in place with the club.
The agreement with Lindley and Centerplate involves the companies providing all the hospitality services in the stadium and also helping fit out the South-West Corner, which has been left part built for several years.
Seven weeks ago Centerplate reiterated their commitment to the club and the corner development after it emerged the two men in negotiations with Watford had since left the company.
We understand the man quoted at the time, commercial director at Centerplate’s UK division, Jonathan Davies, has also now left.
But this week a spokesperson for the company said: "Centerplate is a key partner with Watford FC and we remain committed to investing in the infrastructure of the stadium as part of a long-term partnership with the club. Discussions regarding plans for the development of the South-West Corner at Vicarage Road are continuing to be progressed with Watford FC’s management team."
We understand there is one year left on the current hospitality deal and that a ten-year extension has been agreed, although that is on the proviso the club are happy with the progress of the South-West Corner.
We have also been told two major catering companies have contacted the club about taking over the hospitality services at Vicarage Road and the South-West Corner should the Hornets decide not to active the ten-year deal with Centerplate.
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