Principality Stadium, after 20 years at 74,500, has a new maximum capacity of 73,931.
The iconic, multi-facility Cardiff venue has permanently reduced its seating for pitch-based events, in order to increase its disabled access by up to 30%.
Building work, costing around £100,000, has been completed to create 46 new wheelchair bays, taking the total number to 214, doubling the Stadium’s offering for ambulant disabled access and providing extra seating (up to 111 seats) for additional carers.
Wales’ Guinness Six Nations meeting with England on Saturday 23rd February, the first event of its 20th Anniversary year – and the first at the new capacity – has sold-out to its rafters, leading Stadium manager Mark Williams to call for fans to arrive at turnstiles as early as possible (Gates open at 1.45pm).
“This is a huge fixture in the Principality Stadium’s sporting calendar, it’s the first game at our new capacity, but also the first time we will host England with our full search procedures in place,” said Williams.
“We are extremely proud of the safety and security measures we employ in Cardiff and we have spent the last two seasons hammering home the message to Wales’ fans that they need to ‘get in early’ to ensure they are in their seats in time for anthems and kick-off.
“But this will be the first time for many England supporters so, even though there may now be a few hundred fewer fans, it is vitally important that they get the message to arrive early and without unnecessary bags so they can be processed through search lines quickly.
“We will show France’s clash with Scotland in its entirety on Principality Stadium big screens from 2.15pm so there will be plenty to entertain everyone in the build up to the big one.
“And, probably the best incentive of them all, is I know Warren Gatland and the players will want to hear Welsh fans in full voice during their warm-ups, drowning out any opposition favourites!”
The Stadium- which has brought over 1.3 million visitors-a-year to Wales since its opening in 1999, across a variety of high profile international sporting and musical occasions – opened on 26th June 1999 when Wales hosted South Africa (beating them for the first time) in front of a part capacity crowd, with workers in hard hats populating an incomplete North Stand.
By the opening game of the ’99 Rugby World Cup in October the ground was at its full 74,500 capacity and would remain so for three different Rugby World Cups and a host of other major sporting events, including FA Cup Finals, Football League play-off matches and London 2012 Olympics, which followed.
The 74,500 figure can be topped by on-pitch events, as with Anthony Joshua’s recent World Championship boxing bout which went through the 75,000 mark – international music acts like Ed Sheeran, One Direction, Madonna and U2 accommodate around 60,000 fans, as stage sets generally rule out seats in the North Stand.
“One of our key stated objectives at the WRU is to engage more people, more often in our national sport and we are making these changes because it is the right thing to do,” said Stadium manager Mark Williams.
“We have vastly improved and enhanced our offering for disabled spectators, this has meant a small reduction in our capacity for pitch-based events in the Stadium, by around 500 seats, but our overall offering to supporters has been significantly boosted in the process.
“Demand in this quarter has increased over the years and we have undertaken the work to increase wheelchair bays, ambulant disabled and carer seating to a level that surpasses current demand.
“In order to do so we have made significant up-front investment, but this will have a hugely positive effect on our long term appeal to incoming event owners and to supporters from around the globe who visit the Stadium on a regular basis.”
The project, which cost around £100,000, was undertaken partly due to increased demand from both disabled and ambulant disabled supporters, but also to reflect modern standards after a thorough review of current facilities.
When the stadium was built in 1997-1999 the legal requirement for disabled access allowed for 168 wheelchair bays to be included as part of design specifications and that requirement remains in place today.
But a new venue of the size of Principality Stadium being built in the present day would require many more and the WRU Group, which owns and operates the ground – which is the national stadium of Wales – is both keen to keep up with modern standards and also ensure that rugby remains a game for all.
As a consequence the WRU’s ticket allocations to member clubs, a requirement of its constitution, is necessarily slightly reduced overall in line with the new capacity.
The formula for ticket allocations to clubs is complex, but the deficit has been managed in such a way as to actually provide an increased basic allocation to each member (around 320 member clubs receive a basic allocation of 83 tickets each, this will now be 84), but extra allocations earned through incentive schemes are slightly reduced.
Both Wales’ home Guinness Six Nations matches, against England and Ireland, have sold-out to the new 73,931 capacity.
Tickets are available from clubs now for Wales’ Under Armour Summer Series matches (in August), also against England and Ireland at Principality Stadium.
“Welsh rugby’s disability strategy provides a range of opportunities to get involved in the game from playing, volunteering and spectating,” added a WRU spokesperson.
“The extra disabled seating capacity helps to support this ambition by allowing more disabled people to spectate and enjoy our national game at the Principality Stadium.”
Wales’ 2019 Pre-World Cup fixtures:
(KO time and broadcast details TBC)
England v Wales (Twickenham) Sunday 11 August
Wales v England (Principality Stadium) Under Armour Summer Series, Saturday 17 August.
Wales v Ireland (Principality Stadium), Under Armour Summer Series, Saturday 31 August.
Ireland v Wales (Aviva Stadium) Saturday 7 September