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Workers pile in at historic stadium

By unknown | Aug 22, 2007 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

All reports by Ramatsiyi Moholoa

All reports by Ramatsiyi Moholoa

The upgrading of Ellis Park Stadium, which will be done in five phases, has begun as part of the preparations for the 2010 Fifa World Cup finals.

Operating with a R230 million budget, the owners of the popular Doornfontein sports facility are excited that work has finally started to prepare for the biggest global soccer event.

George Stainton, chief executive of Ellis Park World of Sport, said builders started work four weeks ago and they expected the job to be completed in 12 months.

"There won't be massive changes here at Ellis Park because we are an existing stadium, which has also been used for international soccer and rugby matches for a long time," said Stainton.

"We are busy with the groundwork first, the next stage will be to put the piling for parking. The good thing about the process we have embarked on is that we will have a double-storey parking giving us 1100 VIP parking bays."

Stainton said the City of Johannesburg was running all the budgets pertaining to the upgrading of the stadium, ensuring transparency in the entire project.

Also included in the process will be a new medical facility, new retail and concession areas, a South African Police Service office as well as a holding cell for supporters who misbehave at the stadium.

Phase two is expected to include the building of the north stand where an additional 4 750 seats will be erected. New upper tiers will be added behind each goal post.

"There will also be a fresh and nice look to the Ellis Park precinct," said Stainton, who took the Sowetan crew through the renovation process at their offices in the presence of projects general manager Paul Appalsamy.

Phase three of the process will deal more with Fifa requirements as laid down by the technical team early this year.

"We will also have a new conference centre. There will also be a 150-seat auditorium which will also be housed on the western side of the stadium," said Stainton, adding that space for working media will also be increased.

Media space has always been a cause for concern at Ellis Park, especially when there are big soccer games like the Soweto derby between Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs, or international matches.

Stainton said phase four of the revamp of Ellis Park, which will host seven World Cup games, including a semifinal, will include creating a facility to accommodate 248 disabled people.

"It will be one of the best stadiums in the world," said Appalsamy, adding that phase five will include the general maintenance of the stadium and installation of additional floodlights.

Ellis Park, a stadium named after a certain JD Ellis who is reported to have made available the initial land where it is situated , has a seating capacity of 56611.

The existing building area of this stadium, which was opened in 1928 when it was first used for rugby and cricket matches, is 40 000m2 but is expected to cover 52205m2 after the upgrade.

After the 2001 disaster where 43 people were killed in a stampede in a match between Pirates and Chiefs, more safety measures will be put in place.

Wynand du Plessis of DBM Architects said the Ellis Park tragedy was in their minds when they were planning for the renovations, adding that an evacuation tunnel has been designed on the northeast corner of the stadium.



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