The Argus - The New Albion Stadium Revealed.

By Neil Vowles

With promotion to the Championship sewn up earlier this month, Albion’s thoughts turn to next season – the first at the club’s new American Express Community Stadium.

The Argus was given an exclusive peek round the near complete 22,500 stadium as the final touches are added to a stadium long in the making.

With the grass on the pitch and the seats in the stands, the American Express Community Stadium has changed from a building site to a football stadium this month.

It doesn’t take much imagination looking at these stunning shots by our photographers to imagine how the club’s first match day will now look.

It has been a long roller coaster ride over many years but the dream of every Albion fan, to have their very own, custom made home ground, has been realised in bricks and mortar.

This week the Argus were given an exclusive tour around the American Express Community Stadium with the club’s chief executive Martin Perry.

Mr Perry proudly showed us the little innovations and clever design that are set to make the Amex an incredible experience for Albion and visiting supporters.

One of these clever touches is a rolling shutter system that will allow the club to open up parts of the away end to home fans when smaller clubs come to the Amex.

The system allows for 10% of the stadium capacity, the maximum requirement for a league game allocation, to be opened up to away fans but it can be reduced to 5% for clubs with smaller away followings.

View our picture gallery from the Amex Stadium

It can also be extended to 15% to accommodate away fans for a FA Cup match.

With the new technology the club will be able to avoid a repeat of the club’s promotion clinching victory where seats were left empty in the away end after Dagenham and Redbridge brought less than 250 fans while thousands of Albion fans sought a ticket in vain.

The media room will be able to cater for up to 50 journalists reflecting the huge increase in interest in the club at the moment.

Come the season opener, Argus journalists will be jostling with reporters from national newspapers for the best desk.

The media room will also have its own bar which will not help to dispel the old image of the booze-sodden journalist.

The home and away changing rooms are certainly roomier than Withdean and will have space to accommodate 20 lockers for players.

The roar of the West Stand above will be slightly drowned out by the sound system and large screen TV that will be fitted into the changing rooms to help players mentally prepare.

Separate ice and warm water baths in a side room will allow players to rest aching post-game muscles and large communal showers will allow ten players to wash themselves at a time.

Manager Gus Poyet has his own office just next door while assistant Mauricio Taricco will share his office with the rest of the club’s backroom staff.

But it’s not just the players that will have their own dressing rooms.

There will be separate changing rooms for male and female referees and the club’s army of ball boys and Gully's girls will be given their own rooms to prepare for each game.

But the best has been reserved for club mascot Gully who has been given his own room with his own private shower.

Another notable feature is the inclusion of a warm-up room with 4G artificial turf which will allow players to stretch and pass a ball around within the stadium itself.

Mr Perry said: “We have spoken to Gus about the facilities for the players but a lot of the decisions were taken before Gus was here.”

He added that the club were now looking into the potential use of designs to decorate the tunnel where players will gather before kick-off that could become the club’s own version of the famous This is Anfield sign at Liverpool. Work has also started on decorating the concourse wall with images created by local artists and photographs of fans.

While players make their pre-match preparations, above them in the West Stand, the 1901 club members will be going through their own pre-match rituals in their stylish suites.

The rooms are close to completion with carpet being put down in some of the rooms.

While all the eight lounges have been designed to be different, they are all characterised by the swooping curves that have been incorporated into the different designs of the suites’ ceilings.

The design has taken the impressive curves of the exterior of the stadium that mirror the undulations of the South Downs into the interior of the stadium as well.

As well as enjoying a pre-match pint or scanning the views onto the pitch, 1901 members will also be able to enjoy the work of newly-appointed head chef Frederick Tobin.

Mr Perry says the former personal chef to the prime minister has already started developing his menu and club officials have been putting possible dishes to the taste test. The eight kitchens will be able to cater for 2600 people and have already been fitted out with cooking facilities.

Mr Perry said: “On match day, this will be the home of Brighton and Hove Albion.

“But on a normal day this will be a very important conference and banqueting facility in Brighton and we are inundated with enquiries.

“We have conferences, weddings and exhibitions already booked and it’s going to be very busy.”

The stadium’s wedding licence can only be approved by the council once the stadium has been completed but the club hope to be able to host weddings in every suite.

With padded seats being installed in three of the four stands, a visit to the Amex will be a day of comfort for every fan regardless of the tension dished up on the pitch.

Two large spaces on the walls behind the goals at the South Stand and North Stand will be filled in June when huge HDTV screens will arrive from the US.

1901 members have been told that the screens will be the first of their kind in the country and similar to those used by NFL giants the New England Patriots.

While the blazing sun helped our photographers to capture some stunning shots of the stadium, the lack of rain hasn’t helped the newly seeded turf.

The club have had to use a regular rotation of sprinkler systems to get the grass growing after it was seeded earlier this month but Mr Perry said that the pitch would benefit from rain water.

And there’s plenty of grass to water as the Amex pitch is one of the biggest in the country at 105m by 68m – the same dimensions as Wembley.