The Memorial Stadium, home to English football league club Bristol Rovers FC, is set to open its reconstructed South stand.
The ground is recognised by many as one of England’s most unique, owing to its six-stand design which includes the previously tented South and Southwest stands, and two uncovered sections on the stadium’s Eastern side.
In April 2023, Club President Wael Al Qadi revealed that the tented stands would be merged under one solid-roof structure, not only helping the durability and aesthetics of the stadium, but providing fans with a more accessible football experience.
Presently, the club is poised to open the now-combined stand, releasing photographs on the club’s website that show the successful execution of its design plan.
The fitting out of the stand’s first ever concourse, which will include toilets and other facilities, is ongoing and requires building control sign-off before the club begins test events. A meeting with a Safety Advisory Group will determine whether or not fans can purchase an allocation of tickets.
Completion of these tests will enable the stand to be fully operational.
Known by its supporters as ‘The Mem’, the ground has hosted rugby matches since 1921 and accommodated Rovers’ football exploits since 1996.
However, the club’s tenancy has been fraught by controversy when it comes to upgrading the stadium.
In 2007, Rovers’ announced plans to turn the stadium into an all-seater venue, but the effects of the Global Financial Crisis meant project partners had to pull out of the development plan.
By 2011, the club re-focused its plans to build a new stadium elsewhere, with The Memorial Stadium site to be sold to British supermarket chain, Sainsbury’s.
Yet, the latter pulled out of the deal to develop on The Mem site, a decision that was upheld despite Rovers appealing it via the high court.
The current construction phase has also had hiccups, with planning permission delayed due to residential concerns and continued discussion of constructing a stadium elsewhere; though these plans never came to fruition.
Despite this, the near completion of the South stand is likely to deliver as much relief as it does joy for Rovers’ fans, who will be eager to christen the area whilst the club continues its League One campaign.