Goodbye to the old Grandstand...

The skyline at the All England Jumping Course had a dramatic makeover this week - Hickstead director Edward Bunn explains all about the latest happenings.

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There's something different about the International Arena…
Edward: Yes, the old grandstand has gone! Two big diggers chopped it down into little pieces. They came in on Tuesday, and it took 24 hours to demolish and sort the materials - you can see the video of the demolishment on our Facebook page. The steel work has gone to the scrapyard, and there's a big pile of timber left that will be taken to green waste.

Why did you decide to knock it down?
It was 44 years old and had reached the end of its shelf life. It needed major work to keep it safe and confirm to modern safety standards, but it was beyond economic repair. We made the decision last September, but it was a lengthy process - we had to get permission to demolish it, plus do environmental surveys to check there were no rare breeds living in the grandstand (which there wasn't, apart from woodworm!) That all took time, and by then it was too wet to carry out the work, so we had to wait until now so we had dry ground.

So where will people sit next month at the Equestrian.com Hickstead Derby Meeting?
We're getting a new grandstand to go in its place, and it will be one of the ones used at the Olympics in 2012. It's a similar size but much more modern and with proper seating. Plus, unlike the old one, it meets all the current health and safety regulations! The view of the course will be identical as it's the same height and will sit on the same footprint. The only difference is we no longer have the jump store underneath so all our poles and wings are currently in a marquee - next year we'll be building a barn to house all the jumps.

How are the other preparations going?
Everything is going to plan, and the International Arena is in very good health. We've re-turfed the bank and it's looking very green. Aside from the shows, our new music event Boomerang Hickstead is taking up lots of time so that's our big project at the moment.

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