Windsor Park to get new stand after safety fears forced demolition
A NEW stand will be built at the home of the Northern Ireland football team to replace one demolished over safety concerns.
The West Stand at Windsor Park, Belfast, was bulldozed earlier this year after huge cracks developed in the structure.
The rest of Windsor Park had been undergoing a government-funded redevelopment at the time but the West Stand, then the stadium's most modern, was not part of the rebuild plans, and was only due to be refurbished.
While the new state-of-the-art facilities have been built on two other sides of the ground, the west end has been left empty since the demolition.
The Irish Football Association (IFA) has now announced a new stand will be built.
The news comes as the Northern Ireland team continues to bask in the achievement of qualifying for the European Championships for the first time ever.
The reconstructed stand, which will have capacity for 3,400 fans, will be open in time for Northern Ireland's World Cup qualifying game against San Marino on October 10 2016.
It will bring the total capacity to 18,000.
The costs for rebuilding the stand will be met by an insurance payout - meaning there will be no significant impact on the overall redevelopment budget.
IFA chief executive Patrick Nelson said: "I am delighted that work on the rebuilding of the West Stand will start in the coming weeks.
"The newly reconstructed stand will be in line with the new South and East Stands and will be even better than what was there before.
"With improved sightlines, more comfort for fans and one viewing platform, the new stand will only add to the noise and the legendary atmosphere at that end of the ground.
"As we have seen in recent weeks, the new National Football Stadium is already a fantastic sporting arena.
"When complete, it will be the envy of many other Associations around the world and will be a modern, state-of-the-art home for football in Northern Ireland."
Stormont Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin said: "I welcome the news that agreement has been reached which will allow for the West Stand to be reinstated in its entirety.
"This will be funded through insurance and, as I have stated consistently, there will be no cost to the public purse. I understand that work will commence on the stand within weeks.
"The planned works taking place elsewhere in the ground are nearing completion and when the West Stand is completed next autumn local football will be showcasing a modern 18,000 all-seater stadium.
"This is further good news in what has been a wonderful year to date for the IFA."