AYR UNITED chairman David Smith admitted to feeling a sense of relief as the new North Stand was officially opened on Friday.

Members of the Smith family cut the ribbon to declare the stand open ahead of a glamour friendly against Celtic in front of a near-capacity crowd at Somerset Park.

Speaking to the club’s media team ahead of the game, Smith admitted: “It is exciting, and I’ll get excited about it in the forthcoming weeks, but I just feel a bit of a sense of relief that we’ve managed to get it over the line and get it all finished on time.

“It’s exactly 100 years since we opened the Archibald Leitch stand [on the south side of the ground], so it’s quite poetic that we’re opening this stand a hundred years later. I’d like to say it was by design, but it wasn’t really, it was more of a fluke.

As well as offices, hospitality suites and seating to the rear, the stand – the biggest development inside the ground since the Main Stand extension was opened in 1984 – retains the terracing closest to the pitch, where Smith, now the managing director and majority shareholder of Ashleigh Building, stood as a young supporter before buying the club from Lachlan Cameron in 2021.

Work started on June 19, 2023, and was completed a year and a day later.

“It is a complex job,” he continued. "Every building job these days is complex. But if I’m the client and the builder, there’s a huge amount of added pressure in that.

“We had to make a really difficult decision to reduce the size of the building when hyper-inflation took its toll on the budget, and then with six weeks to go, the cladding contractor went into receivership. That was a real challenge, and I must admit I did feel a lot of pressure.

“ The intention from the very first time we put pen to paper on a sketch was to retain the terracing; I stood there with my dad and my uncle for years so it was important to me to keep it.

“We employed a local architect and a local consultant to come up with the design and I think they’ve done an outstanding job. We do have a lot of talent on the terraces at Ayr United, and everybody’s taken a little bit of ownership of their section.

“Construction has been challenging at times but it’s been a delight to see everybody go the extra mile just to get it ready.”

The stand’s second game will be a ‘friendly’ – if that’s ever possible – against Ayrshire rivals Kilmarnock this Thursday, July 11, ahead of Ayr’s opening Premier Sports Cup tie against newly-promoted Falkirk on Tuesday, July 16. Both matches get under way at 7.45pm.

* See more from a guided tour of the new North Stand at ayrunitedfc.co.uk/ayr-united-tv.