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Portman Stand Completed in 102 Days

August 14th 1971 – a date that many people in Ipswich have had constantly on their minds since the close of the 1970/71 Season. In the Football League fixture lists it indicated a home match at Portman Road against Everton, a fine attractive kick off for 1971/72. However, to the many Contractors associated with the Portman Stand it represented a challenge, the last of the 102 days during which a stand with seating accommodation for 3468 spectators at Portman Road, had to be constructed. Equivalent to a building rate of four three bedroomed houses for every week available. The results we can all see, a fine and most practical Stand comparable to any in the Country.

The architects in November 1969 prepared the first plans, followed by the completion of drawings during September 1970. At this stage, wise management and consideration to other financial requirements necessitated a review of these original ideas and in January 1971 new drawings were prepared to reduce the height, level and length of the proposed stand, and the go ahead was given by the Football Club management.

Three days after completion of the 1970/71 Season, the old East Stand had been demolished and the building area enlarged. At this stage it was essential that the main Contractor's agent and his staff who were responsible for the complete setting out of the project were impeccable in their accuracy on which the whole structure depended. Pile foundations needed to be early on the schedule and were assisted by previously taken trial borings establishing the nature of the sub-soil. In this respect, senior citizens of Ipswich will advise you that the Ipswich Town pitch area was prepared above marsh land where once the Port men of the town were allowed to graze their cattle, this was borne out by the discovery of several pockets of bad bearing soil and the necessity for deep piling to obtain suitable bearing foundations. It is interesting to record that some pilings penetrate the soil to the extent of 80 feet – one and a half times the height of the Stand itself!!

The erection of approximately 300 tons of steel with associated cladding and glazing was in the capable hands of Cocksedge & Co. Ltd., Ipswich, and as a tribute to this fine engineering team, emphasis must be made of the limited time allowed for design, planning and ordering of materials for such a complex steel structure. Due to this short working time available and the batch production of steel at the roller mills, the team of Cocksedges, with the architects, were at times in direct telephone conversation with the suppliers, designing the Stand structure depending upon the availability of specific sized girders – truly a tight schedule!!

There are 23 rows of seating with the back 4 rows over-hanging the roadway by approximately 8 feet. Overall stand length is 280 feet (85 metres) and the height 55 feet (17 metres). Cantilever roof construction allows unrestrictive viewing of the playing pitch, as well as providing maximum protection from sun glare and rain. Assuming rain falls at an angle of 45º towards the stand the spectators in the front row are protected, on the other hand, occupants of the back row seats have a view up to the roof facia edge of the West Stand on the opposite side of the pitch.

Five concrete stairways each provide entry and exit for approximately 750 Supporters, complying with the regulations of the Borough Surveyor and Fire Service Authority. Two further entrances from the Portman roadway feed into a tunnel running in front and for the full length of the Stand, providing comfortable access to the Portman side terraces. At each of these seven entrances ladies and gents toilets are situated.

Seating facilities are of the grey moulded plastic tip-up type, with royal blue fully upholstered vinyl finished seats in the centre section. A decision taken after consultation with Pillar Plastics Limited of Luton, the suppliers, and inspection of various seating arrangements on numerous grounds up and down the country.

The first stage of developing the East side of Portman Road is now completed and the opportunities for further Stand expansion is obvious to us all and has been made possible by realistic planning by Football management and the architects. Large areas under the Stand are also available for future supporters and club facilities.

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