It is high time for an update given the works taking place around St James Park.
The work currently nearing completion is the first stage in meeting the ground grading criteria for Step 1, the National League. “This is not the club getting ahead of itself,” Respect Director, Mick Hawes said. “We aspire to play at a higher level, we came close last season losing only in the play-off final, so we need to be prepared for when the next opportunity comes along. The club has always sought to invest in the ground and our facilities. Finances are tight as they are at all clubs but we do not budget for unexpected income so good cup runs provide opportunities to make the improvements we have seen over the years.”
“Currently the ground capacity of 3000 is too low for Step 1. We have sufficient seating and other facilities but we would need to increase capacity. Consequently we are literally doing the ground works by putting in the base for covered terracing along the east side of the ground, the side where the dug-outs are. The plan would then be to install modular steel units to reach the necessary capacity at an appropriate time. It is the digging out and laying of concrete that is the hard work and that is now almost complete, delayed a bit by some very wet weather.”
The base will be prepared along the full length of the ground, 4.5m deep. The metal units come in ten metre lengths, each with the capacity for 125 spectators, and are literally delivered by lorry, off-loaded and bolted down. With other areas of the ground also possible locations there will be some choice as to where to place the units and how many to install depending on budget and need at the time.
In addition to the hard standing, the works include the infrastructure to support mobile food units and additional toilets as necessary.
Increased capacity is not the only aspect of ground improvements on the agenda. Significant improvements were made over the summer to the pitch, the benefits of which are already being felt. A fully automated sprinkler system was installed without which the unusually arid months would have taken their toll on the playing surface. Several areas were levelled including the three corners and extra drainage was laid on the main stand side of the ground.
New dug-outs were provided and a roof and further protection from the elements were added to the media tower. The costs of this project was close to £10,000.
A further step forward will see the arrival soon of frost covers. These will be for the south end of the ground where frost can cause the most problems and should be in situ before any seriously wintry weather arrives. The covers will sit alongside the pitch supported by electric blowers to heat the air beneath the covers.
“The club is always looking to upgrade facilities and to improve,” Mick Hawes said. “We can feel proud of St James Park and how far it has come with the training pitch, new car parking, changing rooms, upgraded floodlighting and refurbished clubhouse over the last few years. We are always looking to invest in the ground for the benefit of the players and supporters and the wider community use. We go to places in National League North such as York City, Kidderminster, Telford and Stockport County and can admire their stadiums and league-standard surroundings. But drawing any comparison with what we have is a completely false comparison. We stand on our own and take pride in the development of Brackley Town FC.”