THE NEW Murrayfield Stadium continues to take shape -- and a major

step towards its completion is taken today with the opening of the

centre section of the new West Stand for the Calcutta Cup match. Its two

seating decks will add 12,000 spectators to the crowd who watch Scotland

and England do battle, bringing the total of onlookers around the arena

to 49,000.

Royal visitors, guests, and officials will be seated in the middle of

the lower tier, above the players' tunnel. Also in this section are

seats for the press and media, and a balcony for 100 disabled people and

their helpers.

In the upper tier, where the topmost seats are 30 metres above the

ground, spectators will be able to lift their eyes over the roof of the

East Stand to an impressive Edinburgh skyline featuring Donaldson's

School, the Castle, and Arthur's Seat.

All spectators in the new section will have an unimpeded view. There

are no intervening pillars, as was the case in the old West Stand. Above

the spectators in the main stand is a cantilevered roof 48.5 metres

wide. A third of it comprises clear polycarbonate cladding to admit as

much sunlight as possible to the grass below.

Progress remains on schedule to make Murrayfield one of the world's

finest sports stadiums. Construction of the wings of the West Stand will

start in March. These will be linked with the new North and South

stands, providing 18,000 more seats.

These stands are already joined to the East Stand, finished in 1983.

The field will then be encircled and all spectators will be seated and

have an excellent view of the action. The whole project is scheduled to

be completed in time for Scotland's match against South Africa in


In two and a half years, the SRU will have transformed Murrayfield to

provide seats for 67,500 spectators at a cost of #44m.

It is a revised project which will be better than the original

concept, because the initial aim was to provide 65,000 seats. When the

SRU was confronted with modernising Murrayfield because of the

recommendations of the Taylor report, the first plan was to build new

North and South stands and refurbish the West. Later it was decided to

demolish it and build a new one.

Bill Elwood, the head groundsman, says the stadium in its 40-acre site

is ideally placed, a stone's throw from central Edinburgh. The

environment is pleasant, with open areas and landscaping as one

approaches the stadium, and pitches at the rear for practice and club


The centre of the West Stand, the main stand in the complex, will

incorporate changing rooms for the players, referees' and medical

accommodation, hospitality suites, and press and broadcasting

facilities. The SRU will have its offices on the top floor, moving back

from its temporary location in Roseburn Street, and floodlighting will

be installed.

Mr Elwood says it is not only a marvellous place but the safest

stadium in the world. ''State of the art'' and ''hi-tech'' are

descriptions that apply to Murrayfield, and its equipment includes means

of turnstile monitoring and crowd control.

The redevelopment is being carried out in two phases. The first

started in March, 1992, and involved the replacement of the north and

south terraces by two new, two-tier stands with seats for about 8925

people each.

The East Stand was extended to link with the new North and South

stands, providing around 7864 more seats. These stands were opened for

last year's Five Nations Series.

The second phase began a year ago with the demolition of the old West

Stand wings. After the Rugby World Cup Sevens at Murrayfield last April,

the centre section of the West Stand was demolished and construction of

its replacement began.

An SRU official said a rigorous safety procedure was carried out

before every match. The West Stand had been designed under strict

guidelines so as not to obstruct sight lines. In front of the stand

there is a 10-metre gap to give all spectators a good view.

The new Murrayfield will be an attraction for more than rugby. It will

offer splendid provision for hospitality. The function suites in the

North and South stands are already in operation, and there will be even

more impressive amenities in the West Stand.