The New National Stadium: Windsor Park and its Architecture
Belfast’s national stadium at Windsor Park has been redesigned and refurbished at a cost of £25.2 million. The city’s department for Culture, Art, and Leisure is footing the bill for this new design. The stadium is home to Linfield FC and Northern Ireland’s national football team. Several proposals were received in relation to the above redevelopment, making this a multi-purpose stadium with a capacity of 18,000.
The plan would see a series of phases that were due to start in 2013. The need to demolish the railway and the South Stadium at Windsor Park made the redesign and refurbishment a major task. Two newly designed stands were to take the place of those that were demolished, with part of the stadium now enclosed. There were also plans for extensive renovation to the North and South stands of the stadium. The plans included new IFA headquarters as well as new conferencing facilities.
There were some issues with the plans, and work did not begin in earnest until May of 2014, although the project had been signed off in December 2013, with a completion date of November last year. Problems with the West Stand, which was to be renovated, led to the Irish Cup Final of 2015 having to take place at Belfast’s Oval Ground.
The stand was so badly damaged it was decided that it had to be demolished, but it also meant that the work had to be brought forward to meet the 10,000 seating capacity needed. In November 2015, the West Stand plans were approved with further funding. The stand is scheduled to be ready for October 2016, to facilitate the world cup qualifier between Northern Ireland and San Marino.
The stadium was originally opened in 1905, with most of its current features dating to the thirties, and designed by Archibald Leitch, a Scottish architect. It was named Windsor Park after an area of the same name in South Belfast. The original structure had just one stand, the South Stand, that held seating. When present plans for the stadium were first talked about, there were discussions about where the stadium should be situated. Eventually, the IFA said they wanted the stadium to remain where it was, and in 2009, it was agreed that the existing site would be redeveloped.
The design is for a UEFA Category 4 stadium with welfare and community facilities, as well as a café, health and fitness suites and accommodation. The project was being developed one stand at a time so that the home team could continue to use it while the work was progressing.
The demolished west stand area of the grounds is to be developed as a leisure centre, replacing the current Olympia Centre. The South Stand, which was demolished in 2014, and the railway are both being replaced, and there is a new Kop stand being developed. Windsor Park will also have a sports hall and spin studio, and conference facilities will be in the South Stand.