Athlone Stadium has been closed for the remainder of 2009, in order for a new grass pitch to be laid and the upgrading of the spectator stands to be finalised before the 2010 FIFA World Cup™.
The stadium will serve as a practice venue during the World Cup, and the City of Cape Town wants to ensure that the facilities and pitch will be in pristine condition.
Cape Town Premier Soccer League teams Ajax Cape Town and Santos will use Newlands Rugby Stadium as their home ground for the remainder of the 2009 season. The closure of the stadium was communicated to both teams well ahead of time, allowing them to make the necessary arrangements.
“The grass pitch has to be reconstructed and this is not only a complicated procedure, but it will also require a lengthy period for the pitch to establish before we can safely use it for soccer,” says Gert Bam, Director: Sport, Recreation & Amenities.
It is unlikely that the pitch will be in use before November 2009, he said. Numerous factors have to be taken into account, such as how well the new grass establishes; what effect the winter weather will have on it and the length of time it will take to level the field after the first growth phase.
Ajax Cape Town is accustomed to playing at Newlands, having used it as their home ground before playing at Athlone Stadium.
In a recent interview, Santos Chief Operations Officer Endries Burton told Kick Off magazine that playing at Newlands is a disadvantage to the team, especially in terms of getting fans there, “but we have to look at the bigger picture as Cape Town gets ready to host the world’s biggest single sporting event”.