THERE WE WERE, NOW HERE WE ARE : JOB DONE

So, here we are. It’s been a long journey, but the redevelopment of Windsor Park is finally complete.

On Saturday, Northern Ireland played San Marino in a World Cup Qualifier, since the completion of the redevelopment of the stadium, winning 4-0.

October 2016 - Barrier seperating entrances to South Stand and Kop.

October 2016 – Barrier seperating entrances to South Stand and Kop.

October 2016 - Entrance to The Kop.

October 2016 – Entrance to The Kop.

October 2016 - The Kop concourse

October 2016 – The Kop concourse

October 2016 - Seats in The Kop.

October 2016 – Seats in The Kop.

October 2016 - The Kop.

October 2016 – The Kop.

October 2016 - Seats in The Kop.

October 2016 – Seats in The Kop.

October 2016 - Back row of The Kop.

October 2016 – Back row of The Kop.

October 2016 - View from the back row of The Kop.

October 2016 – View from the back row of The Kop.

October 2016 - The Kop and South Stand.

October 2016 – The Kop and South Stand.

October 2016 - Windsor Park.

October 2016 – Windsor Park.

October 2016 - View from front row of The Kop.

October 2016 – View from front row of The Kop.

October 2016 - North Stand

October 2016 – North Stand

October 2016 - South Stand

October 2016 – South Stand

October 2016 - The Kop.

October 2016 – The Kop.

October 2016 - The Kop/North Stand junction.

October 2016 – The Kop/North Stand junction.

It’s important to note, that the whole project isn’t complete, just the Windsor Park part of it. There is still Midgely Park and Olympia Leisure Centre to be completed. Before you ask, no, i’m not doing a blog about a leisure centre being built.

Whisper it, but I might even do a similar blog about proposed redevelopments at Solitude and The Oval.

I can’t help but wonder what Archilbald Leitch would make of the current incarnation of his masterpiece.

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THERE WE WERE, NOW HERE WE ARE : SEPTEMBER – OCTOBER 2016

September 2016 would prove to be the last full month of construction work.

The month began with Rangers visiting Windsor Park to take on Linfield in Jamie Mulgrew’s Testimonial, winning 7-0.

September 2016 - Turnstiles at far end of North Stand.

September 2016 – Turnstiles at far end of North Stand.

September 2016 - The Kop.

September 2016 – The Kop.

September 2016 - North Stand/The Kop junction.

September 2016 – North Stand/The Kop junction.

A delay in getting an alcohol licence meant that there were no bar facilities available when Linfield played Portadown on 10th September, with the club hoping to have them available when they faced Ards two weeks later.

September 2016 - Arm Railing added to The Kop.

September 2016 – Arm Railing added to The Kop.

September saw the announcement that Windsor Park would host two games later in October 2016 in a Women’s Under 19 tournament featuring France, England and USA as preparation for the Under 19 European Championship in 2017.

September 2016 - The Kop/North Stand junction

September 2016 – The Kop/North Stand junction

September 2016 - Far entrance of North Stand.

September 2016 – Far entrance of North Stand.

September 2016 - Street Lighting being erected at North Stand/Kop junction.

September 2016 – Street Lighting being erected at North Stand/Kop junction.

Premier Seat holders got the news they were waiting for on the day of the County Antrim Shield tie against Donegal Celtic, when it was announced that both corporate lounges were open, and they could avail of teas and biscuits if they wished.

The end of the month would be busy for Windsor Park, with Visit Belfast holding their AGM at the stadium.

Fans of Women’s Football would see their Irish Cup Final between Linfield and Cliftonville held at Windsor Park, which Linfield won 2-1.

The following day, Linfield’s match against Ards allowed fans to experience bar facilities at the rebuilt stadium for the first time.

September 2016 - More lighting added to North Stand/The Kop junction.

September 2016 – More lighting added to North Stand/The Kop junction.

September 2016 - Supporter's Bar at Windsor Park, location at junction of South Stand and Kop.

September 2016 – Supporter’s Bar at Windsor Park, location at junction of South Stand and Kop.

As preparation for the Northern Ireland v San Marino game continued, Sunday Life reported that FIFA President Gianni Infantino would be a special guest at that game.

With the stadium redevelopment nearing completion, supporters who require accessible access and seating were offered the opportunity to get a tour of the accessible facilities.

Another milestone was announced in late September 2016, when it was confirmed that Croatia would be the first team to play a friendly since the redevelopment was completed, in November 2016.

September 2016 - Barriers erected at far North Stand entrance.

September 2016 – Barriers erected at far North Stand entrance.

September 2016 - The Kop.

September 2016 – The Kop.

October 2016 - Adding the finishing touches

October 2016 – Adding the finishing touches

October 2016 - Adding some final touches.

October 2016 – Adding some final touches.

As the big day approached, the IFA announced a Lap Of Legends with celebrities such as Carl Frampton, James Nesbitt and Bethany Firth, before the match against San Marino.

October 2016 - Surface work.

October 2016 – Surface work.

October 2016 - Surface work.

October 2016 – Surface work.

October 2016 - Surface work continuing.

October 2016 – Surface work continuing.

Naturally, there would be a lot of media coverage surrounding the completion of the redevelopment, such as this article by Ivan Little on his memories of the stadium.

Not everybody was enthused by the redevelopment work, with local residents claiming the redevelopment has inconvenienced them and they have not seen any of the economic benefits they were promised.

THERE WE WERE, NOW HERE WE ARE : AUGUST 2016

Tonight is the big night, when Northern Ireland play San Marino at Windsor Park, the first game at the stadium since redevelopment was completed.

It’s possible that you’re reading this on your phone at Windsor Park.

In tonight’s blog we go back to August, the month when the new football season traditionally starts.

With the NIFL now based in offices at Windsor Park, they took the opportunity to hold the official press launch for the 2016-2017 season at Windsor Park.

Two days later, the stadium redevelopment had another milstone moment when Linfield’s new club shop was opened by manager David Healy, with players Paul Smyth and Stephen Fallon also in attendance.

August 2016 – North Stand/Kop Junction.

August 2016 – The Kop.

Lovers of food and drink rejoiced in August when it was announced that a contractor was in place to operate the match day bars and catering.

The bad news was, it wouldn’t start until 1st September.

August 2016 – The Kop, now filled with seats.

Also launched at Windsor Park in August was the 2017 Under 19 Women’s European Championship, with the final being at Windsor Park.

2017 could be a busy summer for Windsor Park, with Carl Frampton once again expressive his desire to have a fight at Windsor Park.

August 2016 – The Kop

August 2016 – Junction of North Stand/The Kop.

August 2016 – Seats in the North Stand/Kop junction now filled in.

In the middle of the month, Linfield began decorating the interior, with artwork of legends and iconic moments being added to the club’s offices.

August 2016 – Entrance at Olympia Parade.

August 2016 – The Kop

The end of August 2016 saw the first Women’s game since the redevelopment, with Linfield Ladies game against Mid Ulster Ladies being staged there, due to Linfield being presented with the league title after the game. Remember when the Men’s team used to win league titles?

August 2016 – Turnstiles being added to far end of North Stand.

August 2016 – North Stand/The Kop junction.

THERE WE WERE, NOW HERE WE ARE : JULY 2016

Northern Ireland might have been out of Euro 2016 by the start of July 2016, but this month saw supporters being given the opportunity to purchase their Block Bookings for the 2018 World Cup Qualifiers.

Supporters who began the Euro 2016 Qualifiers in The Kop would return there if they wish, though supporters who signed up at the start of the Euro 2016 Qualifiers being put on a waiting list to see if they can be accommodated once the final capacity of The Kop is confirmed.

July 2016 – North Stand/The Kop junction.

July 2016 – The Kop.

July 2016 – The Kop, as seen from Olympia Leisure Centre.

July 2016 – The Kop, as seen from Olympia Drive.

July 2016 – The Kop.

July 2016 – The Kop.

July 2016 – The Kop/North Stand junction

July 2016 – The Kop

In the middle of July 2016, another milestone was reached, when all the seating in The Kop was completed.

At the end of the month, there was speculation that the finished stadium could be hosting it’s first non-football event, with Carl Frampton stating he wanted to stage a fight there in 2017.

July 2016 – North Stand/Kop junction

July 2016 – North Stand/Kop junction

July 2016 – The Kop

THERE WE WERE, NOW HERE WE ARE : JUNE 2016

As the Northern Ireland team headed to France for the European Championship, work continued on the stadium redevelopment, with a turnstile being added to the Railway Stand, and the pitch getting relayed.

June 2016 – Turnstiles now added to Railway Stand.

June 2016 – The Kop.

As the team arrived in France, a major milestone of the redevelopment was rached in early June when the first seats were installed in The Kop.

On the opening night of Euro 2016, Windsor Park hosted a bike stunt show, Nitro Circus.

June 2016 – The Kop

June 2016 – The Kop/North Stand junction

June 2016 – The Kop, as seen from Olympia Leisure Centre

June 2016 – The Kop.

At the end of the 2015-2016 season, it looked like Linfield fans had seen the last of the North Stand, but they were back in there for their first game of the 2016-2017 season, a UEFA Cup tie against Cork City.

On the day of that match between Linfield and Cork, the NIFL opened their offices at Windsor Park, naming them after Mervyn Brown, former Secretary of the Irish League.

June 2016 – Smoking and Vaping Area. No, really. Fuck sake.

June 2016 – North Stand Turnstiles

June 2016 – North Stand concourse

June 2016 – Work ongoing at North Stand/The Kop junction.

June 2016 – More seats now added in The Kop.

June 2016 – The Kop/North Stand junction.

THERE WE WERE, NOW HERE WE ARE : MAY 2016

May 2016 began with two cup finals at Windsor Park, first of all, the Intermediate Cup Final between Ards and Institute on Bank Holiday Monday.

Sandwiched inbetween was the first Linfield AGM at the newly renovated stadium, in one of the lounges in the South Stand.

The second of those finals was the 2016 Irish Cup Final between Linfield and Glenavon, attended by 11,500 people, the biggest attendance at an Irish Cup Final since 2006, which was won 2-0 by Glenavon.

It was a match that marked the retirement of Jackie Fullerton.

May 2016 – The Kop.

May 2016 – The Kop.

May 2016 – Concourse added to North Stand.

May 2016 – Signage for Linfield Superstore outside Railway Stand.

May 2016 – The Kop.

May 2016 – The Kop

May 2016 – Former away supporters entrance at Boucher Road.

After the 2016 Northern Ireland Assembly Election, the number of government departments was reduced from twelve to nine. The department in charge of the Windsor Park Redevelopment, DCAL, will now form part of a new department, called Department for Communities.

On 25th May 2016, the Minister for this department was confirmed, Paul Frew, a DUP MLA for Lagan Valley.

Two days after his appointment, he was there in person to check it out, attending the Northern Ireland v Belarus friendly. By this point. the terracing in The Kop was completed, and a scoreboard was placed at the junction of The Kop and North Stand. This scoreboard would only be used for this match

At the other end of the North Stand, the junction of North Stand and Railway Stand was used for the first time in that match.

May 2016 – The Kop

May 2016 – The Kop

May 2016 – Signage in South Stand is now numbered entrances rather than lettered entrances.

May 2016 – The Kop

May 2016 – The Kop

May 2016 – The Kop

THERE WE WERE, NOW HERE WE ARE : APRIL 2016

The opening weekend of April 2016 saw Windsor Park host both Irish Cup Semi-Finals, one on a Friday and the other on a Saturday.

April 2016 – Ambulance parking space painted at junction of North Stand and Railway Stand.

April 2016 – The Kop.

April 2016 – Work on the North Stand/Railway Stand junction.

April 2016 – The Kop

The middle of April 2016 saw arrangements confirmed for the 2016 Irish Cup Final, with Glenavon fans being allocated the South Stand, and Linfield fans in the North Stand.

If you were that way inclined, there was also the option of corporate hospitality.

April 16th 2016 was to be a special day for Linfield supporters, as they were able to make use of the South Stand for the first time, in a league match against Coleraine.

Michael O’Neill wasn’t just offering advice in the dressing rooms at Windsor Park, he was offering advice in the functions rooms, being the guest at a Business Breakfast hosted by the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce.

April 2016 – Railway Stand almost completed.

April 2016 – South Stand.

April 2016 – The Kop.

Late April 2016 saw the announcement that Linfield had sold out their allocation for North Stand Upper for the Irish Cup Final, and were getting tickets made available for North Stand Lower.

April 2016 – The Kop.

April 2016 – Railway Stand/North Stand junction.

April 2016 – The Kop.

April 2016 – Railway Stand/North Stand junction.

April 2016 – Entrance to The Kop.

April 2016 – North Stand/Kop junction.

April 2016 – The Kop.

THERE WE WERE, NOW HERE WE ARE : MARCH 2016

In early March 2016, Linfield released a video showcasing the new office facilities at Windsor Park.

March 2016 – Junction of South Stand and Railway Stand.

March 2016 – The Kop

March 2016 – The Kop, as seen from Olympia Leisure Centre

The club’s Ticket Office then moved to the back of the Railway Stand from Midgeley Park, while the game against Glentoran on 12th March would see the new changing rooms be in use for the first time.

For that game, Linfield fans would be based in the North Stand, with the anticipated move to the South Stand not taking place until the post split fixtures.

In March 2016, it was announced that both Irish Cup Semi-Finals would be played at Windsor Park, with admission being set at £15 and tickets only being available through Ticketmaster. The four competing clubs weren’t happy about this, with Crusaders putting out a statement.

Other clubs soon followed in voicing their displeasure.

March 2016 – The Kop, as seen from Midgley Park.

March 2016 – The Kop, as seen from ground level

March 2016 – The Kop, as seen from North Stand.

March 2016 – Turnstiles now being added

In the middle of March 2016, it was reported that relations between Linfield and the IFA were strained over issues of the day to day use, and even the name of the stadium.

Around the same time, Linfield held their first ever board meeting in the new offices.

March 2016 – The Kop

March 2016 – The Kop

March 2016 – Junction of North Stand and Railway Stand

At the end of the month, the Pat Jennings Lounge was used for the first time at the Northern Ireland v Slovenia friendly.

March 2016 – The Kop.

March 2016 – Supporters entering South Stand via Boucher Road.

March 2016 – The Kop.

March 2016 – Entrance gates to South Stand.

March 2016 – Exterior of South Stand.

March 2016 – BBC Broadcast trucks making use of the car parking facilities.

March 2016 – Railway Stand.

March 2016 – The Kop, seen from the halfway point of the South Stand.

March 2016 – The Kop

March 2016 – The Kop, as seen from junction of South Stand and The Kop.

March 2016 – Supporters entering Windsor Park via Boucher Road.

March 2016 – Lifts in the South Stand.

THERE WE WERE, NOW HERE WE ARE : FEBRUARY 2016

Not only was February 1st 2016 the start of a new month, it was the start of a new era for the IFA, as one of the major milestones of the final stages of the redevelopment was reached, as IFA offices now officially moved to Windsor Park.

February 2016 – North Stand entrance

February 2016 – North Stand entrance, as seen from Donegall Avenue

February 2016 – The Kop

It was then announced that a BMX stunt show called Nitro Circus would be taking place at Windsor Park in June 2016, with Belfast Telegraph claiming the IFA are trying to market Windsor Park as a concert venue, with Beyonce, Lady Gaga and Once Direction (when they reform) being lined up.

It’s unclear if it is One Direction with or without Zayn. That would kind of be a dealbreaker for me.

Surely the first concert at the redeveloped stadium should be by Blue Man Group?

February 2016 – Gates added at Donegall Avenue entrance

February 2016 – Donegall Avenue entrance

February 2016 – Donegall Avenue entrance

February 2016 – North Stand entrance

February 2016 – North Stand entrance

February 2016 – The Kop

February 2016 – Hard at work.

February 2016 – Ground being smoothed for cars and pedestrians.

February 2016 – Crane at work.

February 2016 – The Kop, as seen from Olympia Parade.

In late February, DCAL Minister Carál Nί Chuilίn visited the stadium to view progress of the redevelopment.

February 2016 – South Stand entrances

February 2016 – Car parking spaces added.

February 2016 – Disabled car parking spaces added.

February 2016 – Junction of Railway Stand and North Stand.

February 2016 – The Kop.

February 2016 – Progress being made on The Kop.

While the work was ongoing, Carl Frampton declared he wanted to have a fight at Windsor Park. In a boxing ring, he wasn’t offering out one of the locals after a Crusaders defeat.

It was an idea that got the backing of the DCAL Minister Caral Ni Chuilin

THERE WE WERE, NOW HERE WE ARE : DECEMBER 2015 – JANUARY 2016

Christmas 2015 was approaching, but there was no time to relax, with a February deadline for finishing the South Stand being in place.

The building work continued, and was a lot smoother than the football on the pitch, as Linfield experienced four successive league defeats for the first time since 1997.

December 2015 – The Kop.

December 2015 – The Kop.

December 2015 – Gate at entrance to South Stand being erected.

December 2015 – The Kop.

December 2015 – Lighting being erected at Donegall Avenue entrance.

December 2015 – The Kop, as seen from Olympia Leisure Centre.

December 2015 – The Kop

January 2016 – The Kop.

January 2016 – North Stand

January 2016 – The Kop, as seen from North Stand.

January 2016 – Work continuing on The Kop.

January 2016 – Lighting installed at Donegall Avenue entrance.

January 2016 – Entrance to Railway Stand erected.

January 2016 – Entrance to North Stand

January 2016 – The Kop.

The end of January 2016 saw the end of an era, as IFA staff packed their boxes and in anticipation of moving from Windsor Avenue to their new offices within Windsor Park.