Full time at the Vetch - Swansea City FC's former home falls

By Lindsay Gale10 June 2011

First used as a football stadium in 1912, when it became home to Swansea City, the Vetch Field ground saw its last match in May 2005. A £700,000 (US$1.15 million) grant from the Welsh Assembly cleared the way for the site's redevelopment. Demolition and site clearance began in February, when a 20 man team from Neath-based Cuddy Group erected fencing to make the area safe and secure before removing asbestos and carrying out the soft strip. Sentimental items such as seats, turf and advertising hoardings had already been removed by fans after the last game, before the stadium was boarded up.

Throughout the ensuing 14 weeks, Cuddy then razed the Vetch's four stands to ground level utilising a combination of machinery including a CAT 345 high reach, 60 tonne excavators and dump trucks. Having commenced with the North Bank in February to gain access to the centre of the site, the team moved onto the South Stand and West (double decker) Terrace.

The 15m (49.2 ft) East Stand posed perhaps the most complex structure to remove. Of a much newer construction, the heavy steel cantilever frame topped with a with floodlight tower required slow, meticulous dismantling with a 250 tonne crane rather than conventional demolition. But the stand's location - not only on the seafront but incredibly close to residential gardens - proved an added challenge. Scaffolding was erected and Cuddy removed dirty sheeting from the stand by hand so that properties were protected as much as possible.

This then paved the way for Cuddy's civil engineering team to move into bring the project to a close by undertaking an eight week package of cut and fill earthworks, remedial works to boundary walls, road and footpath surfacing, drainage and topsoil laying.

Peter Smith, Cuddy Group's senior contracts manager, commented: "We are about to finally mark the end of an era at the Vetch. There is naturally a lot of nostalgia attached to this stadium as it hosted many nail-biting matches in its heyday, but having sat redundant for many years, it had not only become an eyesore but also a health and safety risk."

"Now the site has a bright new future ahead of it, as does Swansea City Football Club it seems, following its recent Premiership promotion."

As always sustainable working has been a key consideration throughout the project. 98% of site materials - including steel, plastic seating, clean timber and soil - have been recycled and 5,000 tonnes of concrete rubble has been reused on the project in soft and hard landscaped areas.

All work has been carried out considerately to minimise disruption to the community. For example, Swansea Council worked closely alongside the Cuddy Group to put together an acceptable demolition plan that took into account the proximity of nearby residential properties, and a drop-in centre was set up in the local hall so that the team could consult with neighbouring residents about the works.

Peter continued: "Having worked on many sporting stadia over the years - including Ninian Park and Stradey Park - we are able to undertake such projects not only safely and cost-effectively, but with utmost respect for those involved."

When Cuddy moves off-site at the end of July, the newly landscaped area will be ripe for regeneration. With a prime location for much-needed housing and green space, a redevelopment scheme on this site will offer great benefits to the local community.

Chris Holley, Swansea Council Leader, said: "The last month has been an exceptional one for all fans of Swansea City Football Club. The team's promotion to the Premier League allows the city to look forward to top class football on our doorstep in future but we can't forget the contribution the Vetch made to Swansea sporting folklore in the past."

"Demolition of the Vetch is now just about complete and, while it's sad to see, both Swansea and our beloved football team had to move with the times and we hope a landscaped site will pave the way for a redevelopment scheme that will boost the local community in the Sandfields area."

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