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Tony Rowe hopeful work on Sandy Park will start soon

By Exeter Express and Echo  |  Posted: January 10, 2013

Sandy Park. Photo: Pinnacle

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TONY Rowe hopes work expanding Sandy Park can start in the next two months after the success of Exeter Chiefs' share issue.

The club made preference shares available to members and people looking to invest more than £100,000.

And Rowe hopes that will bring in more than £6m by the end of this month, with the shares due to be issued on February 1.

As long as the Chiefs raise that amount of cash from the shares, chief executive Rowe will give the go-ahead for work to start improving facilities.

On the pitch, ahead of Saturday's Heineken Cup match against powerful French outfit Clermont Auvergne, flanker Tom Johnson has retained his place in the England training squad for the Six Nations.

However, yet again he is the only Exeter player to be named in either the senior or Saxons squads.

While that shows there is a way to go for the Chiefs to impress England boss Stuart Lancaster, things are certainly progressing off the field.

The Chiefs equalled their record crowd of 10,744 for the visit of Bath two weeks ago and Rowe has ambitious plans to increase the ground's capacity to 20,600.

The first step on the way is to extend the West Grandstand, adding 2,000 seats and increasing the size of the bars.

At the same time, work will start to build the club's new training ground close to Westpoint Arena in Clyst St Mary.

Rowe told Echo Sport: "Preference shares have been on sale to members and high net worth individuals and it's gone fairly well.

"We've extended it through for another couple of months but the share issue date is February 1 and I'm hoping by the end of the month to be in a position to press the button to get the work started."

He added: "We've got to make 100 per cent certain we're in the right position financially. I'm fairly confident but I've got to wait until the end of the month.

"If we press the button we should start work within four to six weeks and hopefully get phase one (the West Grandstand extension) completed by the end of this year."

Increasing the size of the main stand at Sandy Park will not only increase capacity but allow the club to make more money during the week by being able to hold larger conferences and events.

In time, when funds allow, work would then start to build permanent structures at the south end, east terrace and at the north end of the ground.

Meanwhile, the new training facility at Oil Mill Lane will include three training pitches – one full size – six changing rooms, a gym, offices, a canteen and four classrooms.

As well as being a dedicated base for the first team to train at, it will also allow the club to bring all of their academy players together.

Chiefs officials made £7.5m worth of preference shares available to build that complex as well as extending the grandstand and Rowe hopes the club may yet raise the full amount.

"You never really know how it's going to go but I'm pleased it's been accepted well," Rowe said of the share issue.

"We'll get the minimum but it would be nice to get the £7.5m if we can. We'll have to wait and see where we are at the end of the month."

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