Phasing-in of the new stadium. Looking north
|Former names||Gamble's Field (189? - 1899)|
|Opened||28 October 1899|
|Record attendance||38,098 (1955; pre-redevelopment)
9,861 (2009; during redevelopment)
|Field dimensions||112 x 74 yards|
Bloomfield Road is a football stadium in England. It has been the permanent home of Blackpool F.C. since 1901 and is named after the road on which the stadium's main entrance used to stand. The stadium has been in a process of redevelopment since 1999. That year saw the demolition of the Spion Kop at the north end of the ground, which has since been rebuilt. The rebuilding of the West Stand has also been completed. Meanwhile, the South Stand, whose original structure was pulled down in 2003, is nearing completion, and a temporary East Stand is currently in place. At present, the stadium capacity is 10,035, all-seated. When the stadium is complete, the new capacity should be 16,000.
Before moving to Bloomfield Road, Blackpool had called two other grounds home during their short existence. Firstly, between 1896 and 1897, they played their fifteen home Football League matches at Raikes Hall Gardens (also known as the Royal Palace Gardens). In 1897, they moved to the Athletic Grounds at the town's Stanley Park, which hosted thirty-two League matches over two seasons. After a short spell back at Raikes Hall Gardens in 1899, during their season out of the League, and again for all but the first home game of the 1900–01 campaign, Blackpool made the permanent move to Bloomfield Road. As of 6 March 2010, Blackpool have played 2,104 League games at Bloomfield Road.
The record attendance at Bloomfield Road is 38,098, which occurred when Blackpool played Wolverhampton Wanderers on 17 September 1955.
The ground was originally known as Gamble's Field, being named after the local farmer who owned the land, when South Shore F.C. played there in the Lancashire League in 1899.
The first competitive game played at the ground took place on 21 October 1899, when South Shore played the 1st South Lancashire Regiment. A comment at the time was: "The new ground was not quite finished on Saturday and the linesman had plenty to do besides watching the game to keep the spectators from getting over the line. The grand stand was not up, but it is expected to be ready for next Saturday. A bar is going to be erected and two dressing tents." The official opening of the ground did not occur until seven days later, when South Shore entertained Newton Heath in an FA Cup tie.
When Blackpool F.C. merged with South Shore F.C. in mid-December 1899, the former club moved into the latter's ground and changed the name to Bloomfield Road. Additionally, the two clubs amalgamated with the Lancashire League fixtures of Blackpool, because they were deemed easier than those of South Shore.
After this match, Blackpool returned to play at their Raikes Hall ground, where the Christmas Day game against Oswaldtwistle Rovers resulted in a "better attendance than ever". Raikes Hall was used for the season's remaining home games, and it was not until a practice match on 25 August 1900 that the club — then back in Division Two — returned to Bloomfield Road.
At this time there was only one stand at the ground, a small structure on the western side, which held about 300 seated. Gainsborough Trinity were the first visitors to Bloomfield Road for a Football League game. On 8 September 1900, they drew 1–1 with the Seasiders, in front of what was a "good" attendance of "just under 2,000". It was noted that the ground "conveyed the impression that at some remote period of its history it had been a ploughed field".
Once again, Blackpool returned to playing their home games at Raikes Hall for the remainder of the season. "We shall not easily forget Saturday's match, or rather, to be more accurate, the conditions under which it was played," one critic said. "Unfortunately for the club, the game had to be played at Bloomfield Road, and if there is one ground in this town unsuitable for the purpose for which it is used, this is surely the one. It is out of the way, all the players and most of the committee and the spectators declared that it was impossible to play on such a pitch; and the provision for the Press was absolutely nil." In addition, commenting on the attendance, it was thought that "the figure would have been nearly double had Raikes been available".
The only reason that the opening fixture was played at Bloomfield Road is that, with it being the tail end of the summer season, Raikes Hall Pleasure Gardens were still being used to entertain the public and as such the football field was unavailable. In fact, it had been agreed pre-season that Raikes Hall would be permanently used as the home ground, but that "as soon as certain improvements are completed, a move will be made to the South Shore ground". These improvements were not made to the satisfaction of the club, and they remained at Raikes Hall.
In 1906, the local Press were pleading with the club to provide a decent Press box, as they found themselves watching the games from the touch-line. The following year, a paddock was built in front of the stand to up the capacity. A decade later, however, a serious fire all but destroyed it, necessitating a complete rebuild. Two years later, the Spion Kop, the former South Stand, was built, holding about a thousand standing spectators. Along the east side of the ground, the concreted East Paddock was built, costing roughly £3,000, which nearly broke the club but raised the ground to have a capacity of 18,000.
A small stand was constructed on the north side of the ground, which was called the Motor Stand and made Bloomfield Road one of the only grounds in England to have stands on all four sides of the ground.
In 1925, a new South Stand was built to provide a new boardroom, offices, dressing rooms, baths, and refreshment bars. It cost just over £13,000 and held 4,000 people, bringing the total ground capacity to well over 20,000.
With promotion to Division One in 1930 the locals raised some money to build a massive terrace at the north (Tower) end of the ground which could hold around 12,000 standing spectators, increasing the ground's total capacity to over 30,000. The stand had the club's name painted on its rear. The Motor Stand, which had previously occupied the spot, was moved into the northwest corner, where it stayed until 1985. The East Stand (or "Scratching Sheds") was covered once the team's fortunes increased. The boardroom in the South Stand was also said to contain oak panelling taken off one of Lord Nelson's old flagships that ran ashore on the famous Blackpool beach during bad weather.
Between the 1930s and 2001, little changed at Bloomfield Road. After World War II, significant repairs were needed, not because of bomb damage but due to the fact that the armed forces had used it extensively; however, the rent they received from this more than paid off the club's overdraft.
With an extension of the East Paddock, the capacity was raised to 38,000 in 1954. Floodlights were erected in the summer of 1957, and additional seating in the West Stand was added.
The record attendance at Bloomfield Road occurred when Wolves visited on 17 September 1955. In front of 38,098, the hosts won 2-1.
Bloomfield Road hosted its 1,000th Football League game on 10 September 1960, with a visit by Lancashire neighbours Bolton Wanderers. The game was the first to be televised in England. The Trotters won by a single goal.
The capacity of the ground was reduced to 30,000 in the late 1960s when new seating was installed. During the following decade, the board introduced seats in the East Paddock, a move that proved so unpopular that it was reversed within twelve months. A view from the East Paddock in the 1990s can be seen here.
A roof was put up over the Spion Kop at the north end of the ground; however, it was taken down in 1981 after only twenty years. The council thought it was dangerous, but the club could not afford to repair the roof, so it was torn off. This also caused the removal of seats that had been put into the East Stand. These seats were supposedly a very poor idea as the first three rows were below pitch level, thus providing a poor vantage point from which to watch games.
On 24 August 1974, 17-year-old Blackpool fan Kevin Olsson was fatally stabbed behind the Spion Kop by a visiting Bolton Wanderers fan.
In the 1990s, with Bloomfield Road defining the word decrepit, new safety measures reduced the capacity from 18,000 to 12,000, and then down to 9,000. The western half of the Kop was closed, with the eastern half open only to visiting support, and the East Paddock became segregated. The atmosphere came almost exclusively from the south end, unless there was a large away following.
Also in the early 1990s, the old North-West Stand was pulled down, and the West Paddock was voted as the "most uncomfortable in England".
Former chairman Owen Oyston submitted plans, on several occasions, to build a new 40,000 all-seater stadium adjoining a large entertainment complex. Planning permission for the new ground, which was to built at nearby Whyndyke Farm, was granted in June 1992. However, in 1996 Oyston was convicted of rape and jailed for six years, and nothing further was heard about the move to Whyndyke Farm.
In 1999 and 2001 respectively, the Spion Kop and West Stand were demolished to make way for the new stands, and the pitch was moved slightly north and west to make room for expansion on the south and east sides of the ground in future years.
The stadium was used for two matches during the 2005 UEFA Women's Championship. Blackpool Panthers rugby league club used the stadium for their home matches in National League Two in the 2005 and 2006 seasons and since 2005 it has staged the annual National League Cup final.
On 22 September 2005, Bloomfield Road hosted its 2,000th Football League match. Brentford were the visitors for a game that ended goalless. On 11 October 2007, England under-16s drew 2-2 with Northern Ireland under-16's in a Victory Shield 2007-08 match at Bloomfield Road. The match was televised live on Sky Sports.
In March 2008, following news that Whyndyke Farm is to be the home for a new mental-health hospital to replace the Parkwood unit at Victoria Hospital, and that the site is also earmarked for new housing, Blackpool chairman Karl Oyston confirmed that plans for a move to a new stadium at Whyndyke Farm were unlikely to ever be revived.
On 25 April 2009, after his Nottingham Forest team drew 1–1 with Blackpool at Bloomfield Road, Billy Davies complained about the state of the stadium and its pitch: "It is a disgrace and so are some of the surroundings. It was not rolled and not prepared properly. It was not a pitch on which to play football." After the season ended, the pitch was relaid.
The main entrance to the ground used to be on Bloomfield Road, via the South Stand; however, the development of the ground that began in the first few years of the 21st century meant it is now from Seasiders Way, via the Matthews Stand on the west side of the ground.
This stand, currently called the Westinghouse Sir Stanley Matthews Stand, is the main stand. It is named after Sir Stanley Matthews. The players' tunnel, which was formerly located in the South Stand, is now in this stand, and behind the main seating is a hospitality balcony with executive boxes at the rear from the south end to the Directors' Box at the halfway line, from which point to the north-west corner is the Stanley Matthews Hospitality Suite. The stand also contains office space as well as all the club offices and main reception. The club's nickname, Seasiders, is spelled out in white seats amongst the tangerine majority. After its rebuilding, the stand was originally known as The Pricebusters Matthews Stand.
On 30 October 2009 the club announced that a life-size statue of Jimmy Armfield was being commissioned by Blackpool Supporters Association which will cost £100,000 with the money to be raised by a series of fund raising events. The aim being to unveil the statue, which will be positioned outside the main entrance behind the West Stand facing Seasiders Way, on his 70th birthday in September 2010.
This stand is at the north end of the ground. Within the stand, blocks A to C and the front rows of blocks D and E are the Spion Kop (currently called Clifton Quality Meats Stand) and the rear of blocks D and E contain the club's Family Stand (currently named The Check In Family Stand). It replaced the old Spion Kop and is connected to the West Stand by the North West corner stand. It is named after Stan Mortensen, who is the only player in history to score a hat-trick at Wembley in an FA Cup Final. The club use both The Kop and North Stand on tickets for this stand. The abbreviation "B.F.C." is spelled out by white seats. There is no hospitality balcony at the rear of the stand, with additional rows of general seating and office space behind, which during matches are "blacked out". The stand also houses the Safehands Green Start Nursery and offices for Blackpool Primary Care Trust. Behind the stand is a statue of Mortensen which was unveiled on 23 August 2005 by his widow and Jimmy Armfield. The statue, which is life-size, shows "Morty" in the pose of scoring a goal. It cost £25,000, which was paid for by the club, Blackpool Council and Blackpool fans.
In 2009 Blackpool supporters raised money for a memorial plaque for Kevin Olsson, who was stabbed to death on the Kop in 1974. And in August 2009, on the 35th anniversary of his death, the plaque was unveiled at the back of the Kop outside the stadium, bearing the message: "In memory of Kevin Olsson, 1956-1974. R.I.P. Never Forget."
This stand, which is currently named Brands Scaffolding North West Stand, joins the West Stand and the North Stand (The Kop) together, it has the same number of rows as the West and has the rest of the hospitality balcony directly above. The club shop is located to the rear of the North-West Corner.
Known in its former guise as the East Paddock or the "Scratching Sheds", this stand has 1,965 seats, but with a current capacity of 1,750. There was an incident in 2005 when Sheffield Wednesday supporters jumped up and down with this stand full and some of its middle section gave way; however, nobody was injured.
In December 2007, following a home match against Stoke City, the stand was slightly damaged due to the appearance of a small hole in the floor. The stand had to be re-floored and following an inspection by the Safety Advisory Group, the capacity was reduced to 1,563 for the next home match against Coventry City on 22 December 2007. The stand passed an inspection after the Coventry game, and the capacity was restored to 1,965.
In January 2008, the club applied for planning permission to build a six-row extension to the East Stand which would increase the stand capacity by an additional 972 seats to 2,937. They were granted permission in April 2008. On 8 July 2008, the club confirmed that they still proposed to go ahead with the extension. However, no work has yet been done and the capacity remains at about 1,750.
On 14 November 2009 it was revealed that the football club hope to work with Urban Regeneration Company ReBlackpool to build a new East Stand that would contain both seating and office or retail space rather than, as originally planned, for just seating. This will mean a larger stand is to be built, which will require additional land to be acquired.
The previous 1925 main stand was demolished in 2003. This is the two-tiered stand that abutted Bloomfield Road (a picture of its facade shortly before its demise can be seen here).
Work is currently ongoing on the new South Stand at a cost of £8.5m. Unlike the Kop and West stand, which have three floors, the new stand will have four floors, with a Supporters Bar on the ground floor, a 56-bedroom hotel on the second and third floors, and the first floor possibly being for leisure or community use.
In the summer of 2006 the club announced that building of the south-west corner of the ground, which would seat 582, would begin on 23 September 2006. Whilst the central corridor redevelopment has been completed, including the demolition of the Bloomfield Road bridge (which was located to the west of the ground, towards Bloomfield Road's junction with Lytham Road) and the construction of Seasiders Way, building work did not commence. Work did eventually begin on the hotel on land formerly occupied by The Tangerine Night Club, which had been announced by the club to be built at the same time as the South-West Corner. It is leased by Travelodge and opened in May 2008.
The continued delays for building work to commence became a source of controversy with the club's fans. In a radio phone-in on BBC Radio Lancashire on 6 February 2008, club chairman Karl Oyston stated that, "The South will be built as and when it is right for the football business. I know we need to progress as a club and it is top of our agenda, believe me, but it wasn't right to do it now." He also confirmed that the club had no immediate plans to start building the stand. On 14 May 2008, Blackpool-based radio station Radio Wave 96.5 announced on their website and news bulletin that work was to commence on the South Stand in the summer. However, this prompted an immediate response by the football club, who issued a statement on their official website expressing their disappointment that a local Press agency had issued a media report about the development. And they denied the report was true, stating that "the story about the South Stand developments is a complete fabrication", adding that "any future communications and announcements to be made with regards to the South Stand will come from the club itself." A week later it was claimed that the club looked certain to begin building work in summer 2008 and it was confirmed that the club had a number of options including building a temporary stand, a permanent stand or a mix with a permanent South West corner and a temporary South Stand, with Karl Oyston stating, "I've made it very clear to the board that if we don't increase our capacity by one of the scenarios that I've outlined to them - and I've outlined every scenario that I believe is available - then we will struggle." Adding that "The preferred option is obviously to build a permanent south west and south. The worst-case scenario fallback is to build a temporary south." It was also stated that building a new South Stand and South West corner will now cost about £6-8 million and would raise the capacity of the stadium by 3,000. An Oystons Estate Agency sign was also erected advertising retail space for lease, a pub/restaurant and "hotel with hospitality suites for match days" in the new South Stand.
On 8 July 2008, the club released a statement from club president, Valeri Belokon stating that work on both the new South Stand and the South-West corner would begin immediately, with Belokon and the Oyston family in a full partnership to fund the building of the stands. It was confirmed that the total capacity of the two new stands will be 3,500. Four weeks later, on 5 August, after no work appeared to have begun, the club issued a further statement in which they confirmed that work was continuing at the design stage and that work would begin on the site by the end of the month with the structure of the stand beginning about three months later. Fletcher, King Howard Associates, the construction project managers, further confirmed that this was part of a 40-week programme with the stand due to be completed by May 2009.
On 22 June the club confirmed that steelwork had started arriving, with Project Manager Brendan Flanagan saying, "There is a lot happening on site at the moment. The steelwork is on site, and the pre-cast terracing is due in on Wednesday and it won't be long before we see something rising from the ground. We are aiming to start work on the roof for the South West corner towards the third week of July." On 15 July it was revealed that the club were negoiating with Blackpool Council about opening at least part of the stand before work on it is complete, in the hope that at least 1,000 seats would be available to use by mid-September.
It was revealed on 21 July that the club had submitted revised plans to Blackpool Council, with an increase in the number of hotel rooms to 56, half of which will have balconies overlooking the pitch. The revised plans also included enhancements to the external look of the stand in order that it will fit in better with the rest of Blackpool's Central Corridor. It was also revealed that the cost of £8.5m for the stand will include £2.5m to fit out the hotel and about £500,000 on the new supporters bar. Karl Oyston said, "About half the hotel rooms will overlook the pitch. These will double up as hospitality boxes on match days and the hotel will be linked through to the function rooms in the West Stand. The only undefined use is the first floor of the South Stand, which may be allocated to leisure or community use. The ground floor will be a supporters' bar and a reception area for whatever goes in on the first floor. We have also made this application in order to improve the external appearance of the stand so that it will sit better with the improvements that have been made to Bancroft Park and Central Corridor. We will continue to work closely with the council in order to try and make Central Corridor look as appealing as we can because it's currently the main gateway into Blackpool."
On 12 November 2009 it was confirmed that Blackpool F.C. had submitted a document to Blackpool Council, to be heard on 19 November, applying for permission to bring the South stand into operation in December.
Since work began on the stand, the club have published photographs of the ongoing development on its website on a regular basis.
On 10 March 2010 the club announced the opening of the stand would be for the next home game, ten days later, against Crystal Palace. Valeri Belekon and Jimmy Armfield will formally cut the ribbon to confirm the opening of the £8.5 million complex.
Even in the early days of Bloomfield Road's existence, advertising was in evidence around the ground, with "Winter Gardens", the town's entertainment complex, emblazoned above the southern half of the West Stand.
For around fifty years after Bloomfield Road's 1899 opening, adverts were restricted to hoardings around the ground. Eventually, however, the sloping corrugated-iron roofs of the East and West stands were painted in order to expand the advertising and, in turn, revenue options. Around 1950, the "Oh Be Joyful" slogan of Dutton's Brewery, based in Blackburn, was painted on the roof of the West Stand. This was replaced in the 1970s by Whitbread's "Whitbread Tankard. Cool, refreshing flavour".
Across the ground, on the East Stand, several advertisements graced the roof of the original structure between the 1950s and the point at which it was demolished. In the mid-1950s, the roof featured two black-on-white adverts; the northern quarter was given over to the Evening Gazette and The Green, while the southern three-quarters featured an advert for Harold "The Riley Man" Smith's Premier MG Garage on Bolton Street. Above that, on a stanchion attached to the rear slope of the roof, was a billboard for Morrell's Steelworks.
The Evening Gazette and The Green adverts remained until the 1980s; however, that of Harold Smith's garage – which, along with the former two, was repainted in the reverse colours of white-on-black – was halved in length and re-branded "Premier Garage South Shore" in the 1970s. An advert for the town's tea and coffee merchants Ismail & Co. Ltd was added on the southern end. This was joined, to its northern side, by an advert for Vauxhall & Bedford. Around 1976, the Evening Gazette and The Green paint was changed to black-on-green firstly, then black-on-white, while the Premier Garage and Vauxhall & Bedford sections were repainted to feature an advert for Oliver Rix's British Leyland Garages in tangerine lettering on a blue background. Ismail & Co. Ltd.'s advert remained.
The last of these was the club's shirt sponsors between 1997 and 2001 – Telewest. Not long before this, however, the television-camera gantry, which was originally erected on the West Stand, was moved to the East Stand, somewhat negating the effectiveness of Telewest's advert.
After the western half of the Spion Kop was closed to supporters in the 1980s, billboards were introduced on the empty steps.