Sandy Park will be ready – Tony Rowe
TONY Rowe insists planned expansion work at Sandy Park will still go ahead if Exeter Chiefs are selected to host a World Cup game in 2015 – despite putting construction plans on hold for 12 months.
The Chiefs announced the delay as they pushed forward their proposed season ticket prices for the 2013/14 campaign.
Sandy Park is due to be enlarged from its current capacity of 10,744 to 20,600, starting with an extension to the existing West Stand.
The stadium – which the Chiefs moved to in the summer of 2006 – was last week added to the long list of stadia to host a Rugby World Cup match when the tournament comes to England in 2015, after Bristol City's Ashton Gate was removed due to planned redevelopment work not being completed on time.
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And while chief executive Rowe refused to explain the reasoning behind the Chiefs' decision to delay building work, he insisted that, if needed, Sandy Park would be ready for the Rugby World Cup in 2015.
"As part of our commitment to the World Cup 2015, if we are successful (in our World Cup bid) we will expand the capacity at Sandy Park," Rowe told Echo Sport.
"It will not be affected at all – if anything, the application has actually affected our plans more than the other way round.
"We still have to wait another week or two to learn about our World Cup bid and we just won't know until then."
Rowe – who is also the Chiefs' chairman – revealed in October last year that planned expansion work at Sandy Park would cost an estimated £24m overall, and was due to start early this year.
The first phase was expected to be funded through the club offering preference shares – known as P shares – in the business that were hoped to generate more than £6m.
And while Rowe declined to go into detail, he insisted that financial issues were not an 'overriding factor' in the club's decision to delay expansion work.
"Finance is always a factor but it is not the overriding factor in our decision," said Rowe.
"Because of other things which are going on it just suits us to hold fire on our plans for a little while."
The Chiefs received the welcome news of Sandy Park's addition to the long list of venues for the 2015 World Cup last week, meaning the Exeter stadium and Gloucester's iconic Kingsholm are the only club rugby grounds being considered.
"We want to ensure that Rugby World Cup 2015 is a truly national event and Sandy Park, located in the rugby heartland of the South West, gives us the option to take the tournament as far and wide as possible," said Debbie Jevans, chief executive of organisers England Rugby 2015, when explaining the decision.
Other expansion work planned for Sandy Park includes new permanent stands working anticlockwise on three sides of the ground.
Extending the existing conferencing and corporate hospitality facilities, including a new 1,000-seat conference centre suite behind the new South Stand, is also planned.
Rowe has said in the past that the expansion work could bring an estimated £30m into the city's economy as the club tries to build their average match-day attendance up to around 10,000 a game, with crowds of between 15,000 and 20,000 wanted for big European matches.