First look at our new home
First up for me was a visit to the South Stand to see where my brother and dad have their season ticket seats. Already there was a problem - you can't enter it directly from the road. Instead, you have to go round to the front of the Main Stand and in a gate there. This could create a bit of a bottleneck on match days. Once inside the stand it's fine - just like most other Barr stands. Proper turnstyles that you won't get a lifty over and a decent view. It's very similar to the Reid Kerr College Stand at Love Street in size, but a completely different construction.
One potential problem is the Astroturf around the side of the pitch. It runs between the pitch and the stands, which is fair enough, but there is a join a player could trip on if he's running too fast. Also a surprise to see no special strip for the linesmen to use.
Next up, a trip to the Main Stand, and an encounter with a jobsworth steward. At this stage, most stewards seemed happy to let folk wander between the stands by going on the Astroturf. Not this bloke. He decided he needed to check if he was allowed to do this, told me to stay put and wondered off. At which point, with no steward around and folk coming the other way, I opened the gate and wandered across. There were other instances of idiotic stewarding but I won't talk about them as that's not the point of this piece.
The Main Stand doesn't appear much grander than the others. The windows at the back for the board room and conference suites only seem to go half the length of the pitch. The dugouts are incredibly basic - just seats, no covers - and folk sitting there are going to be blinded by the sun if they're not soaked by the rain.
But those are the negatives. Everything else is extremely positive. A wee wander along the back row allowed folk to peer into the various rooms. The hospitality lounge looks massive, the boardroom has some nice badges on the carpets and what I assumed was the press room is relatively big and modern. There are some nice padded seats for the directors and hospitality folk, while the press area (it's not really a box) is ten times bigger (and probably better) than the one at Love Street.
Sadly, your intrepid reporter was stopped from going into the West Bank to see what it's like by another jobsworth steward. However, the walk over there did allow me to see that the "Wall of Fame" bricks are in a place asking to be vandalised, but there are some stylish signs around the places.
There are acres of car parking within the stadium and only problem on this score is in the streets around the ground - there were only a few hundred folk there today yet not much space around the streets. Plus, the council have decided to choose this particular week to dig a hole in one of the nearby roads. Genius.
Overall, a very positive first impression of our new ground. There's still a few things to iron out - no advertising boards, parts looking very bare, but on the whole it's pretty good. Roll on Saturday.
P.S. Don't ask me what was happening on the pitch because I, like most fans, wasn't paying the training session any attention!