Sowetan crew, Ramatsiyi Moholoa and Antonio Muchave went out on an inspection tour of Soccer City last week

The western stand that accommodated corporate suites and offices is the only remaining building structure of the once imposing Soccer City.

The western stand that accommodated corporate suites and offices is the only remaining building structure of the once imposing Soccer City.

This is a sequel to the massive upgrading process which began in January done by Phumelela Africa Professional Engineers.

The stadium is one of the venues which has been selected by the Local Organising Committee for the 2010 World Cup finals. Buti Edward Williams, managing director of Phumelela Africa, took the Sowetan crew on a site inspection tour of the stadium last week.

On our arrival at Williams' temporary offices, we were offered makarapa (helmets) and instructed to wear them before going on the site. In terms of the rules and regulations, any person visiting the site of any construction has to wear a helmet for safety reasons.

The City of Johannesburg has allocated R1,5 million for the revamping of Soccer City, which will host the World Cup opening and closing ceremony.

The upgrading process got under way with the fence surrounding the stadium replaced by corrugated iron.

Getting closer to the site, one notices that the seats that once rounded the pitch have been demolished to make way for a more solid foundation and fancy structure.

Dust swirled and graders zigzagged and buzzed around the place. Williams said the building, which also housed the 80 suites, will not be demolished in what he described "as a cost saving measure".

He was however quick to point out that the existing building will be slightly adjusted to conform with the new design of the stadium. \

An additional 287 suites will be built, which will also see the capacity of the stadium increasing from 77 000 to more than 94 700 seats.

With the plastic seats already removed, the constructors are still to decide on the new seats to be erected at the grandstands.

"We are going to have beautiful seats where people will watch the games comfortably, but it will be high technology plastic," explained Williams.

"The plan of getting high technology seats is to ensure that a normal person will not be able to remove them, like it used to happen where they were used as missiles."

In terms of the new design, the new-look stadium will be partially roofed and floodlights will be strategically located around the edge of the roof.

"We will also have the dressing rooms, medical rooms, players' lounges and kiosks where food and soft drinks will be sold," said Williams.

Talking about the pitch, Williams said a natural grass will be planted. He added that the new grass will be slightly raised - by 400m millimetres this time round.

"We will also be creating a new tunnel facing the centre line of the stadium where the players will go straight into the pitch from the dressing rooms."

Asked if there will be new security measures around the deadly moat, Williams said: "A security fence will be erected to make it impossible for people to access it."

He said there will also be a helicopter landing site on the western side of the stadium for emergency and dignitaries' purposes.

"There will also be practice fields between the stadium and the (Soweto) highway. Accessibility to the stadium will be easy and parking will also be plenty."

The upgrading of Soccer City is expected to be completed by April 23 2009 and Williams is adamant that they will meet the deadline.

"It will be an awesome stadium, one of the best in the world. It will be the flagship of Africa," said Williams in his parting shot.

The upgrading of Soccer City is the second facility built by Phumelela, who also did a great job in the R86 million Safa House.