Blues new home is looking first class

AS I travel to work every day along the old A61 Sheffield Road, I have watched with interest as the old Dema Glass factory at Whittington Moor was demolished and new developments rose from the ashes.

A massive Tesco supermarket went up very quickly on the by-pass side of the site but of much greater intrigue to me was the construction of Chesterfield FC's new 13m home, the b2net stadium.

Initially, skeletal pieces of steel work were erected on what was once a cricket pitch opposite the old fire station.

But gradually the structure began to take shape and resemble a football ground. And after 139 years at Saltergate, the Spireites are just five weeks away from quitting the old place and moving in.

GB Building Solutions, who have built the new 10,500-capacity all-seater ground, are due to hand over the keys on Monday, July 5.

So it was with some degree of excitement and anticipation that I paid my first visit to the new stadium last week.

I was shown around by Spireites press officer Geoff Mitchell and we were accompanied by Masanori Suwabe, the general manager of a Japanese construction company who had come all the way from Tokyo for a look-see at the almost-finished ground.

Health and safety seems to play a major role in everything these days and before we were allowed access to the place - which was in fairness a building site - we had to don hard hats, safety boots, high-visibility jackets and gloves.

Like many followers, I have always loved Saltergate and was one of those who mourned its passing. But I was delighted with what I saw of the b2net - it looks magnificent.

The curved roofs of the main stands look impressive while the two ends complete the picture. And clad with blue tip-up seats - each of which has a great deal of leg-room - the development presents itself as a unified whole, rather than a collection of four individual stands.

With no barriers or posts obstructing the view, the playing surface looks huge, although all seats appear close to the pitch.

And while some new grounds - such as at Shrewsbury or Colchester - could be described as functional and lacking character, the b2net has a touch of class about it.

One of the major reasons for switching from the run-down Recreation Ground to the new place, was that it would have extra space and facilities to provide additional sources of income for the club.

Chesterfield FC intends the new ground to be north Derbyshire's premier venue for conferences, exhibitions, wedding receptions and gala events and there is sufficient space on the first floor of the HTM Stand for those sorts of occasions.

The ground floor concourse is set to provide an imposing entrance and once the staircase is installed it will provide access to the higher level. For those who have difficulty climbing stairs, lifts have been provided.

A state-of-the-art commercial kitchen is nearing completion and the Club Lounge, the Vice Presidents Lounge and the Leengate Legends Club - where events of different sizes can take place - all boast panoramic views of the pitch.

Bookings are being taken by Chesterfield FC's events team, which can be contacted on (01246) 209765 or at events@chesterfield-fc.co.uk, and there are hopes that the place will be buzzing from August onwards.

Opposite the main stand is the Midland Co-operative Community Stand which, in time, will house a gym, mini-swimming pool, community police station, a special disabled toilet and a host of other facilities for community use.

For supporters, the match-day experience will be something new. The concourses in every stand are extremely spacious and there will be bars where drinks of all sorts can be bought.

There is still a lot of fitting-out work to be completed so the GB Building Solutions employees and contractors - of whom up to 140 are on site every day - will have their work cut out finish the job on time.

But project manager John Currie is confident that everything is going smoothly and that the b2net will have the highest possible build quality of any ground in the country.

‘'It will be the best football ground in England,'' he told me as I finished my tour. Let's hope so, because this is what everyone connected with the club wants.

The stadium looks to be a winning one and after the Blues have narrowly missed out on the League Two play-offs for the last two years, it is now over to manager John Sheridan to produce a team that is capable of taking the club to where it belongs - League One and above.

VIEW FROM ABOVE: Chesterfield FC's b2net stadium nears completion. Photograph taken and donated by Ian Whelpton and pilot John Shephard with thanks to Steve Browett.

SITTING COMFORTABLY: Mike Smith and Mel Small of Universal Fixings Ltd bolting in blue seats at the new ground. SP77881.

Photograph by Marisa Cashill.