The new East Stand at Vicarage Road will not be open this season as planned after the Hornets decided to extend the structure by a further 800 seats, the Watford Observer understands.
Watford had initially hoped to have part of the new stand open early this year with the second section in full use by Spring.
That then became March and June late last year before further delays and bad weather meant the club had accepted they would only be able to have part of the structure open during the 2013/14 campaign.
However, we understand that will no longer be happening and the club now plan to have the stand fully completed before opening at the start of next season.
The plans submitted last summer followed the old designs from before the Pozzos’ takeover, which resulted in the stand ending in line with the penalty spot at the Vicarage Road end.
But the club has now decided it wants the new structure to run the whole length of the pitch for aesthetic reasons and has contacted Watford Borough Council about the alterations.
We understand this would increase the capacity of the East Stand by around another 800 seats, taking the capacity of the whole structure to more than 3,000 – it was due to be 2,600.
Before the late redesign, the capacity at Vicarage Road would have been more than 20,000 but only if the restricted view seats are included. Now more than 20,500 will have full sight of the pitch.
The change has seen the cost increase from £3m to around £3.5m.
The stand will have a semi-temporary design. The base and rows will be concrete but the framework will be made of steel which can easily be dismantled, should an extension take place.
The original East Stand was built in 1922 and extended in 1969, but has not been in use by fans since the summer of 2008, although the media continued to use the facilities until late last year.
Watford Borough Council had previously granted permission for two other East Stand developments that were not built; a 4,289-seater stand in April 2002 and a 5,000-seat structure in May 2008. Permission for the last project was renewed again in April 2011.
Chief executive Scott Duxbury said shortly after his arrival last year that an East Stand would be built once the average attendance was around the 15,000-mark, with the Vicarage Road capacity in the region of 17,000 if restricted view seats are excluded. And the average in the Championship this season has been 15,525.
Contracts with local demolition firm Gaywoods and stadia construction specialists GL Events were signed in September and demolition began in the first week of October, with artist impressions released a month later.
The new structure will consist of 17 rows and provide one of the best views in the stadium due to the 50cm gap between each row – which is similar to the Upper Rous.
Despite only having 17 rows, the roof of the stand will almost be the same height as the Rookery End, which has more than 40 rows.
The cladding and roofing are to be a dark grey rather than the light colour indicated in the artist impressions and other ‘club finishing’ will be added to the stand.
Pre-fabricated food kiosks will be slotted into the 3m-high gap between the ground and the steel framework of the stand and can be changed with relative ease.
The players’ and officials’ changing rooms, a small medical centre and other rooms such as the manager’s office will be housed under the East Stand.
The tunnel to the pitch will now be on the half-way line, as will the broadcast gantry and media facilities.
Access to the stand will be via turnstiles on Occupation Road and the current, unused, turnstile blocks will be reinstated. The steel staircases will be prefabricated and descend down to the concourse area and supporters will access their seats from pitch side on steel staircases.
The first row of seats will be more than one metre above pitch level. Plans suggest the first row at the north end of the stand will be 1.29m above pitch level with it rising to 1.9m at the south end.
The additional space at the front of the stand will be used to house disabled supporters, who will enter the ground at the same south-east entrance as those who sit in the Rookery End, and potentially photographers.