COUNCIL chiefs in Edinburgh say they will make safety officers available throughout Friday, Saturday and Sunday should Hearts need a last-minute inspection of their new stand for the Ladbrokes Premiership match against Partick Thistle.
Builders will work through the night tonight and will do overtime until the end of the week in the frantic last dash to finish off the new-look Tynecastle Park in time.
Building standards officials visited the site on Monday but a number of issues prevented them signing off a safety certificate for the multi-million-pound main stand.
They will return for another inspection today and again later in the week if required.
There are still seats to be installed at the Roseburn end of the new stand and, although most of the cladding has been fitted, signage and the concourse need attention. Other areas of the structure must also be completed but the Council are keen to do everything to help Hearts.
However the Evening News has learned safety inspectors will be on hand throughout the weekend if needed to assess whether the stand has passed all the legal checks.
Provided work is done to meet the required regulations, the Council are also prepared to issue a general safety certificate at the very last minute to allow Hearts to host Partick Thistle at 3pm on Sunday.
The Council’s Culture & Communities Convener, Cllr Donald Wilson, said: “Public safety is quite rightly our primary concern, as it is for Hearts, and the Council is doing all it can to help the club reopen Tynecastle in time for Sunday’s match. Further inspections are planned for today and later in the week, if required.”
Should time run out on Hearts, club officials will ask the Scottish Professional Football League to postpone Sunday’s match. Hearts have been in constant dialogue with the SPFL and will keep communication lines open throughout the week.
All concerned remain hopeful work will be completed in time and a temporary certificate granted to allow the match to go ahead as planned. Hearts have already contacted Partick to brief them on the situation and are desperate to avoid a postponement.
So far, Partick have been told that the match will go ahead and are preparing as such. The Glasgow club enjoy a cordial relationship with their Gorgie counterparts and the Evening News believes they would not be unduly difficult to deal with over a possible postponement.
Thousands of fans would be inconvenienced and potentially furious if the stand did not open given tickets have been sold, and many supporters have already made travel arrangements.
The decision will be a late one and builders on the project are working frantically to finish different jobs in the new stand, which was originally due to open in September. That date was put back to November 5 but, with work still not completed, a further delay was announced and a new opening date set for this Sunday.
Hearts are doing everything possible to stick to that schedule, however they are bracing themselves in case time runs out. In that event, they would be forced to wait and open the new Tynecastle Park a week on Saturday against Ross County - assuming all paperwork is in place.
Since being eliminated from the Betfred Cup in July, all of Hearts’ matches have taken place away from their spiritual home. Four “home” ties have been staged at BT Murrayfield, which has become the club’s temporary home. Murrayfield cannot host football matches during November due to Scotland rugby internationals being played there, leaving Hearts with no room to manoeuvre.
Hearts said in a statement: “Work is continuing at a considerable pace with a view to being ready for Sunday’s 3pm kick-off against Partick Thistle.”
The decision to build a stand was made to upgrade Tynecastle at an original estimate of £12million. Through the Foundation of Hearts fan group, supporters are contributing £3m to its cost.
The new structure will contain state-of-the-art dressing rooms, media facilities, hospitality suites, a Skyline restaurant and a piazza area outside. The frontage will be named the Foundation Plaza to mark the contribution from the fans.
The whole project is not due for completion until summer 2018, when the new main stand will be fully operational on every level. It will increase Tynecastle’s capacity to more than 20,000 people.