We continue our look at United's pre-season preparations by speaking to George Johnstone, Head of Group Property Services, about this summer's projects at OT...
How busy is this summer in terms of stadium development?
It’s very busy. We are currently working on a number of different projects around the stadium, of which the main one is redevelopment of 50 of our hospitality boxes. We developed 16 boxes in North Stand last summer to provide supporters with external seating. We rearranged the layout so that the boxes had the same footprint but with seating outside with the glazing behind the seats. That proved very popular so we’ve now extended it to the remaining North Stand boxes and all the East Stand boxes. When it's completed, the majority of our boxes will have some kind of outside seating.
Has the work been done on demand, or in anticipation of a demand?
It is a combination of both really. The response to the new-style boxes has been very encouraging. I think some people had come to the conclusion they were losing some of the attraction of coming to a match, being part of a crowd and so on. Others still want the glass because they’re entertaining people and they want to have the privacy. The way we’ve designed the new boxes is that you can have both – an enclosed area behind glass and then external seating so you can go outside to watch the match.
Has any work been done on the playing surface this summer?
Yes, the green staff have been busy renovating the pitches at Old Trafford and the training ground. That’s normal routine, they do it every summer. Renovation doesn’t mean relaying - we’ve not laid new turf since 2003. It’s been over-seeded and that’s what’s coming up at the moment, it’s mainly seed although the existing grass plants are still there. Over-seeding strengthens the grass and produces fresh growth.
What else is going on?
We’re also refurbishing and re-equipping three of our kitchens, for the Premier Lounge, the Europa Suite and VIP Lounge in the South Stand, as well as a servery in Level 3 of the West Stand. And another project we are co-operating with is Sky’s installation of cables for 3D television broadcasts. They trialled 3D at a couple of matches last season and they were sufficiently encouraged to lay in cables so they can broadcast in 3D whenever they choose. In addition to all that, our maintenance regime continues, including the replacement of some air conditioning systems