Exeter Rugby Club chairman and chief executive Tony Rowe OBE has spoken of his delight after Sandy Park was crowned Rugby Venue of the Year at the prestigious Rugby Expo Awards held at Twickenham Stadium on Wednesday night.
The popular multi-million pound Devon venue, which was built in 2006, took the prize ahead of the likes of Clermont Auvergne and Saracens, the latter of whom last season moved to their own new playing base at Allianz Park in Barnet.
The Rugby Expo award is just the latest honour to be bestowed on Sandy Park, which as well as being named as one of the host venues for the 2015 Rugby World Cup, was last season voted the best match-day experience by supporters from all 12 Aviva Premiership clubs.
Sandy Park, however, is not just about rugby and in a busy period for the popular Conference and Banqueting facility, they have played host to awards night of their own for the likes of Pride of Exeter, Devon Life and EDF Energy, as well as sold-out functions for the Exeter Chamber of Commerce and the charity Dream-A-Way.
Commenting on the award, Rowe said: "Naturally we are delighted that Sandy Park has again been singled out for such praise within the rugby community. Since we moved here in 2006 from the old County Ground, our aim has always been to deliver the best match-day experience, as well as the best facilities to all those who visit us.
"This award is testimony to the hard work and effort that is put in by all of our staff, not just on match-days, but throughout the year in all that we do. As I’ve said before, Sandy Park cannot survive on just 20-odd games a year, so it’s vital that our business is working to the highest standards throughout the year.
"Clearly what we are doing – both on and off the field – is a winning formula, but we are determined as always to keep raising those standards to ensure we provide the best possible experience for all of our customers."
ohn Wood, Head of Corporate, who collected the award on behalf of the club, added: "We already believe we have one of the best venues in the South West, but this award shows we’re one of the best in Europe which will help our exposure as we commence the process of increasing the size over the next few years in preparation for the Rugby World Cup"
Currently Exeter Rugby Group are edging ever closer to their £7.5 million target for the future redevelopment of Sandy Park through the Exeter Chiefs 2020 Bond, which is open to private and corporate investors, with a minimum subscription of £1,000 and a maximum of £4m.
Once that figure is raised, the next phase of development will see conference and banqueting facilities in the West Grandstand enlarged to span the full length of the pitch, creating a venue capable of hosting more than 1,000 delegates. Additional seating will replace the North West and South West terraces at either end of the grandstand, whilst the car park will also be enlarged and the main pitch re-laid.