A Trade Magazine for Northern Ireland's Building & Design Professionals
The National Football Stadium at Windsor Park, Belfast
The recent success of the Northern Ireland team is mirrored by a stadium to be proud of. Find out more about how this stunning new home of local football came together…
With the team ethic of a championship-winning side, O’Hare & McGovern has produced a performance to be proud of.
Most managers will use the cliché of one game at a time, but for O’Hare & McGovern it was more a case of playing the long game during the redevelopment of the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park.
The leading building contractor tackled the company’s first stadium project by producing a match-winning performance that highlights the team ethic that is central to every success at O’Hare & McGovern.
While the company prides itself on complete preparation, this project placed a greater emphasis on O’Hare & McGovern’s ability to adapt effectively to a series of unforeseen circumstances. In the end, it was a tactical masterclass by the company.
Funded by the former Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, the project involved the design, development and construction of the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park, with the provision of three new stands (the South, East and West) alongside associated demolition, temporary works and refurbishment works to the existing North Stand.
The various stands incorporate new changing, training, hospitality, media, comfort, office, and storage facilities.
In addition to the stands, the work also included associated safety and accessibility ground improvements, turnstiles, site works, external lighting, a new pitch with under-pitch heating, and drainage.
The new stadium – which has an increased capacity of 18,600 – was designed and constructed to meet UEFA stadium category 4 standards, with the upgrading of all the existing access and egress points throughout the grounds having to comply with UK Safety at Sports Grounds legislation and guidance, including acoustic improvements.
All this was achieved as the stadium remained fully operational, with both Irish League games and European Championship Qualifiers taking place.
“Health and safety is always a major priority on every job, but at the National Football Stadium you were effectively inviting the public onto a construction site, so that placed a greater emphasis on this,” explained Nick Oldfield, Contracts Manager at O’Hare & McGovern. “As well as the fans, we also had to consider the welfare of the players and coaching staff. Logistically, it was a major operation but all our planning paid off.”
However, the best preparation didn’t make a difference to some of the unexpected challenges O’Hare & McGovern had to deal with on this project.
To begin with, the discovery of asbestos in the South Stand put work on that section of the stadium behind by 16 weeks, with the team having to switch emphasis to the East Stand. When the project finally got back on track, the well-documented issues with the West Stand again forced a rethink of the project and required the demolition of this stand.
“We had our fair share of hurdles to clear and, while it was far from ideal, we used our experience to overcome them,” added Nick. “From the outset of the contract there was a strong and positive relationship between Geoff Patterson (IFA), Andy Priest (Edmond Shipway), Mark Haslett (Hamilton Architects) and myself. All four of us met regularly in order to dicsuss the many aspects of the contract and to understand each other’s problems associated with the design and the overall process of the project. These meetings and the relationships forged within this forum was the key to the success of the project.”
As part of the stringent health and safety regime the company used metal detectors on the pitch as an additional precaution. Regular health and safety inspections were carried out throughout the project’s duration, while even the temporary buildings – that included a social club and changing rooms – had to meet strict UEFA and FIFA guidelines.
Being the first stadium project carried out by O’Hare & McGovern this proved a steep learning curve.
“We pride ourselves on our experience and while many of our skills could be transferred onto this project much of it was very new to us. The steelwork, for example, was highly complex and took a lot of added consideration and time to complete.
“However, what we have learned will prove worthwhile in the future, and I would really enjoy the opportunity to work on another stadium project in future.”
While not a football fan, Nick said that he takes personal pride in the National Football Stadium project – as does the company.
“It has been an honour and a privilege to work on Northern Ireland football’s national stadium and that is a feeling shared by everyone at O’Hare & McGovern and our supply chain. Like football, this project has been all about teamwork and I think the final result speaks volumes about how everyone pulled together to give local football a stadium to be proud of.”