The project arose from Bolton Wanderers' decision to sell its existing ground and move to a site suitable for an 'all-seater' stadium. The aim was to procure facilities better suited to the club's new image in its promotion to the English Premier League, and its supporters' needs for improved viewing and comfort.
To make it viable, the stadium had to be multi-functional, catering for a mix of uses, and using its facilities for multiple purposes. At the same time, the local authority wanted an indoor hall for sports such as netball and basketball.
The whole scheme was conceived as a single-phase development. The architects were selected based on their reputation in sports architecture and were employed by a standard form of contract, with the architects and other members of the design team contracted by the main contractor in the second stage.
The club's representatives wanted to emulate the Alfred McAlpine Stadium in Huddersfield, but required the lower tier to be designed as a complete, continuous bowl around the pitch.
Previous stadium developments were evaluated in terms of 'cost per seat'. For this project, individual tenders were analysed against the market norms for comparable construction. Special elements, such as the main roof steelwork, rated at cost per tonne, and more specialised steel such as the floodlights, rated with a cost uplift, using rates acceptable within industry norms.
The planning application for the stadium was called in by the Secretary of State, primarily due to the impact on traffic. A number of orchids also had to be transplanted as part of the scheme. Several studies were undertaken, leading to a series of road improvements costing some £14m. A part of the site was also classed a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The project was value-engineered to ease construction and to achieve engineering solutions that worked in building life cycle terms.
Getting the design down to a price that could be afforded was a challenge. Particular contruction issues also arose from building the stadium around a completed football pitch.
The architects were appointed in 1994 with the other consultants following over the ensuing months. Planning approval was gained in 1996. Work commenced on site in July of that year, and the stadium was completed and handed over for operation in August 1997. It opened on 1st September 1997.