North West Wales

Bangor City FC to play Premier League Wigan Athletic

Nantporth ground
Image caption Bangor City's new Nantporth home, on the banks of the Menai Strait

Bangor City will play Premier League Wigan Athletic in a friendly on Saturday to celebrate the opening of their new stadium.

Former Swansea City manager Roberto Martinez brings his side to Nantporth for a friendly which kicks off at 14:30 GMT.

Meanwhile, the stadium is hosting its first match on Tuesday evening.

Welsh Premier leaders Bangor face Welsh Alliance side Caernarfon Wanderers in the North Wales Coast Cup competition.

For club chairman Dilwyn Jones, it has been a mammoth task bringing the new stadium to life.

"It has been 11 years in the making - but we are here, and that is the main thing," he said.

"We're sad to leave the old ground at Farrar Road, but I'm sure you can see the facilities here are just fantastic.

"It's taken a long time and quite a lot of hard work. In particular, the board of directors behind me have worked tirelessly."

'Picturesque' location

The result is a brand new sports stadium on the banks of the Menai Strait with seating capacity at the moment for 1,100 fans.

Importantly, there is also a standing terrace for the fans who used to dominate the Farrar Road end of the club's old stadium in Bangor city centre.

The old club ground, where the Citizens played their games for nearly a century, is in the process of being torn down to make way for a supermarket.

But the club chairman is convinced that fans will take to the new ground straight away.

"I think they will settle in fairly quickly," he said.

"The actual stadium is in a little bit of a bowl here, and to an extent there is an echo - an atmosphere will be created."

Image caption The bulldozers are already tearing down Farrar Road

There is also the view. Nantporth's position must mean it ranks as one of the most picturesque grounds in Britain.

"From the pitch side you can see the views of Anglesey - you've got the suspension bridge in the distance too," added Jones.

"But of course, we are here to see football, and the stand is completed and we've started installing additional stands on the Straits side."

The main stand accommodates 800 people, and some fans are already asking for it to be named the Gwyn Pierce Owen stand, to reflect the life-long commitment of the club's honorary president, and retired Fifa referee.

European matches

A further 400 supporters can be seated on the opposite side of the pitch.

But the club has already submitted plans to increase the seating capacity even more - to reach the magic number of 1,500, which would allow European cup competitions at the ground.

And European ambitions are not pie-in-the-sky thinking either.

Since 1962, when the club beat the Italian giants AC Napoli, Bangor City appeared on the European football stage 12 times.

Image caption The new Nantporth changing rooms promise hot water - unlike Farrar Road on occasions

Most recently, as Welsh Premier winners in 2011, the club entered the Champions League for the very first time, losing both legs to HJK Helsinki.

But Uefa rules on seating meant that first round match against the Finnish side had to be held in Rhyl, which Dilwyn Jones does not want to see repeated.

"We're now stuck in the position where we need funding to finish it off. That's one of the main issues, to try and get the stadium up to Uefa compliant standard," said the chairman.

"1,500 seats is the target for the first and second qualifying rounds in Europe, and that is our main aim, hopefully to try and get it done before the summer."

However, it is not just about the pitch and seating at the new ground. It is also about the players, and what they can expect.

Hot water

Inside the new clubhouse, the brand new home and away changing rooms are gleaming.

"The players are coming into a warm environment, fairly relaxed in here, plenty of room - and hot water," said Jones.

"Sometimes at Farrar Road you would be lucky to get hot water, lukewarm was how it was described by the referees anyway."

The Bangor City - Caernarfon Wanderers game kicks off at Nantporth at 19:30 GMT on Tuesday.

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