The multi-million pound redevelopment of Sandy Park will begin early in the New Year after a bond issue raised enough investment to fund the work, Exeter Rugby Club officials have announced.
After months of behind the scenes activity, including raising in excess of £7.5m through the Exeter Chiefs 2020 Bond, the green light has now been given for the planned works to begin.
Earlier this year the Chiefs unveiled their ambitious, long-term plans to transform Sandy Park into a state-of-the-art stadium that would not only see the ground capacity double to 20,600 but also involve the building of three new grandstands, a 1,000-seater auditorium, as well as expanding the conference and banqueting facilities.
To kick-start the first phase of that development, Exeter Rugby Group in August launched the Chiefs 2020 Bond, which was open to private and corporate investors to raise the initial target of £7.5m.
This week that target was reached.
Exeter Rugby Group chairman Tony Rowe said: “These are very exciting times for the club – both on and off the field – and the instigation of these works demonstrates that we are continuing to build for what we hope will be a hugely successful future.
“I am delighted that so many people share the same vision and passion that I have for the club and for Sandy Park. Like anything, it will take time and a lot of effort by plenty of people, but I can assure everyone that everything will be carried out in the right manner and at the right time, thus ensuring that whilst we look to build off the field, we remain a competitive force on the field both in the Premiership and in Europe.
“For us to progress, as we want to, it’s essential every cog is in place and that nothing is done to jeopardise our long-term goals. Our vision for the future remains as strong as ever and this week’s news is the next step in our journey.”
Helping to guide Exeter Rugby Group through the whole Bond issue have been corporate finance experts Isca Ventures, Prydis Wealth Ltd and Michelmores LLP – all of whom have been praised by Rowe for their “outstanding” contribution.
“Without the help of our experts at Isca Ventures, Prydis and Michelmores, I do not believe we would have got to this stage,” added Rowe. “It has been there vast knowledge and experience that has proved invaluable in helping to move the whole project forward.”
Phase One of the development will see conference and banqueting facilities in the West Grandstand enlarged to span the full length of the pitch, creating a venue capable of hosting more than 1,000 delegates.
Additional seating will replace the current North West and South West terraces at either end of the grandstand; whilst the car park will also be enlarged and the main pitch re-laid.
"We were delighted to play a leading role in putting the Exeter Chiefs 2020 Bond together and providing corporate finance support through-out this transaction,” said Mark Champion, partner at Isca Ventures LLP.
“We needed to come up with an instrument that would suit all the stakeholders of Exeter Rugby Group Plc and be attractive to potential investors, with a corporate bond being a logical choice. The response from members, supporters and investors has been fantastic and we are pleased the board were able to exceed their fundraising target. We have no doubt the expanded Sandy Park conference centre and rugby stadium will serve the region well for years to come."
James Priday, director at Prydis Wealth, added: “Prydis were both excited and humbled when asked by the club to advise on the regulatory compliance of the investment proposition.
“We think it’s fantastic that the money was raised in such a way that allowed members and fans to participate in the Chiefs’ future. We are thrilled that the target was met and exceeded, showing not only the success of the investment structure, but also the genuine support that exists for the club. I personally can’t wait to see the completed stadium.”
Michelmores associate Stephen Morse said: “We are thrilled to have worked with the Chiefs on their 2020 Bond issue. We are very lucky to have top-flight rugby being played on our doorstep, and it's great to have played a key role in something that will both help the club go from strength to strength and give a huge boost to business in the region.”