Belfast Telegraph

New look Windsor Park ready for Frampton showdown

Frampton bout to draw crowd of 22,000 as football stadium becomes a boxing arena

By Stewart Robson

It has borne witness to famous footballing moments down the years.

But tomorrow at Windsor Park a bell will replace a whistle, and a ring the pitch, as Carl Frampton aims to continue making history.

The Jackal faces Australia's Luke Jackson in the first professional boxing match to take place at the transformed National Stadium.

Double Olympic medallist Paddy Barnes and heavyweight Tyson Fury on the undercard.

Yesterday at the stadium food vans, crowd barriers and plastic pitch covers were being drafted in for the showpiece event, which will attract more that 22,000 fight fans to the venue.

Turning a football stadium into a boxing venue is no mean feat, and that was evident in every corridor and tunnel after yesterday's pre-fight Press conference.

The man responsible for making sure everything runs smoothly is David Boyd, interim head of stadium operations.

"The boxing has been concentrating our minds for quite a while," he said.

"A lot of the contingency plans we have for the stadium all apply but the major thing was, because we're going above our normal capacity, we had to apply for a special safety certificate and we had to go through a separate process for that.

"For an 18,000 capacity crowd, all of our internal toilets are more than adequate, but because we've extended we've had to bring in Portaloos and exterior bars and catering, which we wouldn't have to do for matches.

"We're very conscious that we're in a residential area, and of course there comes inconvenience with events like this that can't be avoided.

"Normally the loading of the stadium for an international match would be 50/50 at either side of the stadium, but we're hopeful, and we've certainly made plans, to have it transferred to 75% from the Boucher Road side to 25% at the other.

"We've also tried to restrict the covering period to as little as possible with the plastic covers being lifted, at the latest, by five o'clock on Sunday, so we're hoping the damage will be minimal."

Mike Goodall (70), who said he'll "retire and expire on the same day", is the man responsible for building the boxing ring. He's been in the industry for 30 years and has worked in venues from Andersonstown Leisure Centre to Wembley Stadium.

"This is just another day at the office," he said.

"It doesn't matter whether it's in a leisure centre, the SSE Arena, here or in Wembley Stadium, all I'm doing is putting the same facilities together, using the same people.

"I've put a schedule together and worked it all out so we all know what to do and when it's going to be done."

What is clear is that it's a collaborative effort from all members of staff at the IFA. From ground staff to directors, employees have had to adapt to changeable surroundings.

Thomas Fulton is the ICT project manager and usually works in a team of two at the stadium. Sub-contractors have been brought in to cope with technical demands.

"We've had to put temporary scanning into two corners of the pitch, which adds a little more pressure to my job," he said.

"We've also put in a wireless network to monitor how many people are moving on and off the pitch, while having visibility of how many people are coming through our turnstiles."

Director of sales and marketing Simon Fitzpatrick added that the increase in visitor numbers will be beneficial to the future of the stadium and to local football.

"This gives us an opportunity to showcase the stadium for future events," he said.

In a night that's set to place Belfast back on the boxing map, everyone at Windsor Park is hoping the dedication and hard work has been worth it.

It's now over to you, Carl.

Belfast Telegraph

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