Interview – James Bisgrove on Ibrox development

On Wednesday afternoon I was given the opportunity to have a look around the new Blue Sky Lounge restaurant at Ibrox Stadium. The new revamped restaurant stands at the back of the Sandy Jardine rear and provides some of the best views of our stadium and the very best dining experience.

It’s hugely impressive, from the decor to the service and food available. It’s a real step up in class and service available to the support. The big news is as part of the new deal with partners Levy is 74% of all revenue goes straight to Rangers which is a significant increase on the deal’s previous, in fact it’s hugely beneficial to our club. It has also extended the stadium capacity by 200 people with two new rows of seating at the back of the Sandy Jardine stand.

The restaurant boasts 330 available spaces and has already taken thousands of bookings, it’s now a realistic venue for dining for fans and tourists everywhere.

I also had a look at the Museum ‘room’ within the stadium and a sneak peak at some of the items that will be on show in Edmiston house once the museum opens in a few months, that will open later than the actual building itself.

The museum will boast a look through Rangers history, with audio and visual storytelling throughout ending with a changeable section which will focus on specific moments of our history, highlighting specific exhibitions on a regular basis. So one month you may get the story of Barcelona 1972 and next time you visit the story of 92/93 treble winners for example.

Club and blog sponsor Rhino Express who carried out a lot of the revamp work around the stadium.

As for Edmiston House itself, much bigger than it appears. Two levels of retail space for the club shop, an event space boasting 1300 capacity with a coffee shop and museum space above. A bar which will open on match day at 11am and close around 7/8pm depending on demand, allowing fans to wait after games and watch a live premiership game for example.

We also discussed the new sports bar, which will go in place of the current Castore shop. This could host 600 people on a match day, with state of the art facilities, self pouring service and retro arcade gaming to amuse waiting fans. With the summer targeted as realistic position for significant progress on this.

Rangers will continue to push Ibrox as a major concert venue with more events planned every summer and massive interest from bands and comedians to book the event space within Edmiston house.

Another small but progressive point is Ibrox will now become part of Glasgow’s ‘Hop on Hop off’ tourist attractions, so a regular flow of visitors may now frequent the club’s new attractions.

Now I get it isn’t a new signing and I also get what really matters is on the pitch, I agree completely and I appreciate some won’t prioritise this. However I thought a good opportunity for us to learn more about what’s happening around Ibrox and some of the new facilities fans nay benefit from.

I was joined by James Bisgrove as we walked around the Ibrox Footprint and he agreed to discuss the new ventures with me. You can find that interview below in both written and audio form.

What I will say is this was very unplanned, I didn’t have pre planned questions and this was about the new facilities and more of a fact finding opportunity.

A chance for people to find out more about what is happening, so if there is a few things I missed then I appreciate that but I hope it provides that insight and people enjoy it for what it is.

Restaurant information and to book a visit here 👉🏻


Can you talk us through the new restaurant and how pleased you are with that?

Blue Sky Lounge as a restaurant, as a hospitality facility, it’s one we’re really proud of. We’ve had a fantastic reaction and a lot of positive feedback. There was a big investment made by the club in terms of modernising that space and wanting to create something that, in Scotland, we feel is the pinnacle in terms of that hospitality experience. It was really pleasing that part of the work that we did we were able to also extend the capacity of the lounge which is now up to 330 on a matchday or on a non-matchday if it’s the restaurant. We’re also able to add in some general admission seats which has increased the capacity of the stadium by a couple of hundred seats.

There has been new disabled facilities as well, can you give us some information on that?

As supporters and shareholders saw at the AGM there’s a much broader plan in terms of the investment, in terms of accessibility and disabled seating that’s in the pipeline for this year. One of the things that we were able to do in Blue Sky Lounge is create a new dedicated platform for supporters with accessible needs. We can get six wheelchairs up there with carers as well so it’s just starting to move in the right direction in terms of that broader plan in terms of accessibility.

There was an additional 200 seats as well?

Yes, because of the way that the project configuration was with the previous lounge where those that have saw the Argyle Suite would’ve seen that there were boxes enclosed behind the glass. We knocked them through and some of the work that we were able to do with the seats meant that we could put in another couple of rows there. It’s great on matchdays where we know we’ve got that demand over and above season ticket holders whether that be through MyGers. We know that when seats are sold on SeatSub, they’re snapped up very quickly so every additional seat is pleasing for us in terms of maximising capacity and stadium atmosphere.

What are the benefits for the club in terms of maximising revenue?

The genesis really of Blue Sky Lounge came through our new partnership with Levy. That is very different from our previous relationship because it’s a joint venture with a profit share which means all of the activity we do through our catering on a matchday or a non-matchday, comes through a profit share and three-quarters of that goes back to the club. Blue Sky Lounge was co-funded with Levy and it has allowed us already through the profit share to monetize the restaurant operation in a way that we were never able to do before. That’s why, for the club, it’s so pleasing and encouraging to see a restaurant that’s got such a brilliant reaction. I think when we launched last Wednesday we put out an email and some social media posts and I think there were 2,500 bookings by the next morning, we’re up to over 100 a day, sold out for Sunday lunches, up to 250 covers. The reaction has been brilliant. Of course, there’s therefore, quite rightly, an expectation of service level and the experience is up to standard. We’ve got a new menu that’s about to be rolled out from the executive chef team at Levy. It’s another benefit for us in terms of revenue generation and our continued expansion of the commercial programme.

So Rangers make a bigger percentage of the revenue from the restaurant and there is more benefit to visiting than there was previously?

That’s correct.

Bar 72 has also had a makeover. What are the benefits that has brought to the club?

The upgrade of Bar 72 is another area we have invested in upgrading the facilities with video walls, new bars and more of a lounge area as well and that’s one where on a match day where we have increased in quality for existing clients but also creating a space we use frequently on non-match days. It’s that kind of bigger picture if you think about what’s on the campus in terms of New Edmiston House and what we can offer there on a matchday with the upcoming conversion of the Rangers Store into a sports bar as well. It really starts to create this feeling of Ibrox as a destination on a matchday but also on a non-match day.

Edmiston House looks to be getting to the end stages. Are you excited for the opening?

It will be a multi-purpose venue we will use 300 plus days a year at the club. We are hugely excited about its potential and not just how it can elevate the matchday experience but also what we can do on a non-match day. We will have two floors of retail in collaboration with Castore but also a lot of our official licensing partners who create a lot of different products across our portfolio. We will have space there. The top floor will be a club museum where there will also be a coffee shop. On the ground floor will be the event space where we can host events which will be very diverse in nature. We will have concerts, comedy nights, we are already taking bookings from businesses that want to have conferences there so it will be very dynamic. On a matchday, we will host a fan village with live entertainment, street food vendors and it’s a licensed premises so we will be able to serve alcohol to season ticket holders before and after every match. So if fans are leaving the stadium after a game and don’t want to queue the subway or want to meet a friend, they can stay, have a couple of drinks and watch a Premier League game. It increases dwell time and the desire to stay outside the stadium after the 90 minutes.

Can you outline how important the support from the fans has been in these projects?

It’s been phenomenal. We have over 5000 supporters who have bought the official supporter package. We have been preparing communications to supporters which will outline how they can redeem some of the benefits because every fan that has bought the official package will get the first opportunity to book tickets, whether it’s a club-run event or not and they will also have their name inscribed on the wall. It’s a point we can’t overemphasise because that funding has contributed to the building of the venue so every supporter who has contributed is part of the legacy of Edmiston House and we probably couldn’t have done it without that backing which will only increase once the venue is up and running.

How proud are you to have been involved in such an important project personally?

It’s constantly trying to move forward and improve. That’s the mantra and philosophy of the board, making sure that we are never standing still and are always moving forward, investing and improving everything we do on and off the pitch. So, when you start to see these projects come to life after hundreds of meetings and drawings, we went up to the restaurant and to see that busy with people enjoying that experience, it’s fantastic to see.

Can you tell us about the new sports bar?

We’re right at the start of that project. We’ve had a couple of meetings to look at concepts. We’ve looked at some other sports-based sports bars in other clubs with designers and partners. It’s something we want to move forward quickly after opening New Edmiston house. Hopefully, after the summer we will be close to having something there. It will be another area on matchdays, and non-matchdays, supporters can come and have a positive experience. The numbers we are thinking of at the moment is around 500/600, when you add Blue Sky Lounge, 300, Edmiston House, 1000. We’re creating so many additional areas in and around Ibrox for people to spend additional time.

Where do we go from here and what is your next target?

We keep moving forwards. Rangers football club is a huge club, still with so much potential. Commercially, we have set targets beyond which we set last year which was just over £28million and we’re going to try and push through £30m now. We will keep maximising sponsorship opportunities, keep maximising through our international activations as well. Everything we do through our commercial programme, which we get unbelievable support from the support right around the world, is for the benefit of the club and ultimately to support the team on the pitch. Ultimately, that’s my job and everyone in the commercial and marketing department. To keep moving us forward for the betterment of Rangers.

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