Newcastle. Tyne & Wear
St James Park, Newcastle
20 Jun 2020
Newcastle. Tyne & Wear
This is a
Barrack Rd, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 4ST
Current status is
Designer (if known):
The site is still used for Newcastle United's home fixtures
'The site of St James' Park was originally a patch of sloping grazing land, bordered by Georgian Leazes Terrace, and near the historic Town Moor, owned by the Freemen of the City, both factors that later affected development of the ground, with the local council being the landlord of the site. Leazes Terrace was built c1830 by notable Newcastle residents, architect Thomas Oliver and builder Richard Grainger. Once the residence of high society in Newcastle, it is now a Grade 1 listed building, and, recently refurbished, is currently being used as self-catering postgraduate student accommodation by Newcastle University. The site was also near the gallows of the city, last used in 1844, lending the Gallowgate End its name.
The first football team to play at St James' Park was Newcastle Rangers in 1880 They moved to a ground at Byker in 1882, then returned briefly to St James' Park in 1884 before folding that year. Newcastle West End took over the ground in 1886. West End were wound up in 1892 and effectively merged into their rivals Newcastle East End, who took over the lease of St James' Park and became Newcastle United later that year. Local residents opposition to football being played at St James' dated back to the first games in the Football League following the building of the first small stand at the Gallowgate End. A redeveloped Gallowgate and further stands followed in 1899, bringing the first official capacity to 30,000 (standing).
While the stadium is now synonymous with the Black and Whites, Newcastle United actually played in red and white at St James' Park until 1904. In 1905, a doubling of capacity to 60,000, with a main stand on the Barrack Road (now Milburn Stand), and major other stands, produced a state-of-the-art facility, even boasting a swimming pool.
The second-ever rugby league test match, and first test victory by Great Britain, was played at the ground in 1908 against the touring Australian Kangaroos side on 23 January 1909.
Between 1920 and 1930, plans were drawn up for a double-tiered stand by notable football architect Archibald Leitch. However, after planning disputes, all that was achieved was a small roof over the Leazes Terrace side (Sir John Hall Stand). Floodlights were constructed in the 1950s, with the first match played using them held on 25 February 1953 against Celtic.
Up until the 1960s planning difficulties continued, culminating in lack of development of the ground being cited as the reason for failure of Newcastle United to secure the right to host a group stage of the upcoming 1966 World Cup following political disputes.
In the late 1960s further attempts were made to develop the site, and the council proposed a multi-use sports development of St. James' Park. This was rejected as not financially viable. Plans were drawn up by the club for a move to a stadium in Gosforth, or even a groundshare with Sunderland A.F.C. in a new stadium on Wearside. These plans were withdrawn in 1971 after agreement to redevelop St James' Park was finally reached, after mediation by the then Minister for Sport, Denis Howell. In 1972, work started on the East Stand, 50 years after it was last permitted to be developed. In 1978 the Leazes End was demolished, but relegation and financial difficulties meant the new stand was not built.
Investigations following the Bradford City stadium fire in 1985 identified a need to replace the ageing West Stand, which was demolished in 1986. Its replacement, the Milburn Stand, was named in honour of Jackie Milburn and opened in 1987. Further development was again shelved for lack of finance.
Until the early 1990s the ground had achieved only modest expansion under various owners, with plans dogged by disputes and lack of finance due to poor on-field performances. In January 1992 businessman Sir John Hall, who had led the Magpie Group consortium in a hostile takeover of the club, was installed as chairman. Sir John used his experience in property development to rapidly gain approval and invested heavily in the stadium with finances gained from success under new manager Kevin Keegan.
The Leazes End that had been demolished but not replaced was finally rebuilt, and opened as the Sir John Hall stand for Newcastle's debut season in the Premiership in 1993. The Gallowgate End was rebuilt, the Milburn Stand modified, and a new pitch, drainage and floodlights were installed. With all four corners filled in with seating, by 1995 the stadium had reached a capacity of 36,610.
Proposed Leazes Park development
As the expanded stadium still received full houses due to continuing success of the team led by the returning Kevin Keegan, in 1995, plans were submitted by the club to relocate to Leazes Park to the north. A new £65m purpose-built 55,000-seat stadium would be erected, less than two pitch lengths away from the original, but rotated, which would be similar to the San Siro in Italy. The old ground would be redeveloped to be used by Newcastle Falcons Rugby Club, as part of the wider envisaged 'Sporting Club of Newcastle', with basketball and ice-hockey teams purchased by Sir John Hall.
Leazes Park was historically part of the Town Moor, owned by the Freemen of Newcastle, and protected by the Newcastle-upon-Tyne Town Moor Act 1988. The City council initially invited the planning proposal amid suggestions that the club might move to a site in Gateshead, a 75,000-seat stadium next to Gateshead International Stadium, but it led to political debate and opposition. A pressure group "No Business on the Moor" eventually gathered a 36,000-petition signature, equal to the then-current stadium capacity. Opposition also came from a conservation group Friends of Leazes Park led by Dolly Potter. The club proposed to mitigate the loss of the moor land with proposals for a land trade-off with landscaping of land freed up by scaling down of the existing stadium restoring the views of the historic park from Leazes Terrace.
It became clear that the relocation plan would not gain planning permission without a potentially long-running public enquiry. To quickly satisfy demand, the club decided to expand the current St James' Park instead.
In 1997 Sir John Hall stepped down as chairman (remaining as a director until 2007, now life president of the club), and existing shareholder and board director Freddy Shepherd became chairman.
Following the withdrawal of the Leazes Park plan, the club proposed expansion of St James' Park to over 52,000 capacity, through major construction of a second tier over the Milburn Stand, Leazes End and adjoining corner, adding to a structure that was itself just four years old. After a refusal by the Secretary of State to take the application to an enquiry, permission was obtained in July 1998. For minimal disruption to seating capacity during construction, the project required 3-day shutdowns of work on home match days. 750 seats were lost during construction. During this expansion, executive boxes in the East Stand were demolished and replaced by seating blocks from pitch level up to the existing rows, in a mirror image of the Milburn Stand. The executive boxes were transferred to the new Milburn/Leazes complex, with more added to the Gallowgate End. During development, the additional stand and roof was constructed while leaving the existing cantilever roof intact until the last possible moment These developments increased capacity to approximately 52,143. The construction was completed in July 2000 at a cost of £42 million. Ironically, after opposition from local residents to the relocation plan, the expansion of the current ground at the Leazes End has further reduced the view of Leazes Park from Leazes Terrace, although this is now student accommodation.
Save Our Seats campaign
The 1998 redevelopment caused controversy when the club informed 4,000 season-ticket-holding fans that their seat prices would be increased to corporate rates, with the option of paying these or being moved to seats in the proposed expanded sections. Half of these fans were 'bondholders', who had paid £500 in 1994 which they asserted guaranteed them an option on their specific seat for 10 years. Some fans resisted, and after two high-court cases and a Save Our Seats campaign, the club was allowed to move the fans, under an exceptional circumstances clause. As a gesture of goodwill, the club did not pursue the fans for legal costs awarded over their insured limit.
In late 2003, preempting the relaxation of the UK gambling laws, the club signed a deal with MGM Mirage to hand over the land above St James Metro station, behind the Gallowgate End, in return for an equity investment, to build a jointly run complex centred on a Super Casino. These plans failed when the proposed number of super casinos was reduced to one in the UK, and in January 2008 £5 million was repaid by the club to MGM.
In 2005 the Gallowgate was redeveloped, with a new bar being built beneath the upper tier of the Gallowgate End, named "Shearer's" after Newcastle player Alan Shearer. During excavation underneath the stand during building work, the builders uncovered the original steps of the old Gallowgate End stand, which had simply been covered up when the stadium was fully renovated in 1993. These steps were removed for Shearer's Bar. The completion of the redevelopment of the Gallowgate saw the creation of Shearer's Bar, an expanded club shop, a club museum and a new box office.
2007 proposed expansion
It was announced on 2 April 2007 that the club intend to submit plans for a new £300million development of the stadium and surrounding areas, to include a major conference centre, hotels and luxury apartments. The proposals also include a plan to increase the Gallowgate End, eventually taking the capacity to 60,000.
This expansion would be funded by the city council and linked to the redevelopment of the land behind the stand and over the Metro Station, which had previously been earmarked for the casino project. Expansion of the Gallowgate end involves difficulties due to the proximity of a road, Strawberry Place, and issues surrounding reinforcement of the underground St James Metro station.
The 2007 redevelopment plans announced under the previous regime were put on hold following the takeover of the club and its plc holding company by owner Mike Ashley. One of the first noticeable changes in the stadium in the new era was the removal of advertising mounted underneath the roofs (facing the crowd) for Shepherd Offshore and Cameron Hall Developments, companies associated with the previous regime. A large advertising sign for Sports Direct appeared on the lip of the roof of the Gallowgate, visible from the pitch.
A full review of the club performed by the new management team concluded that stadium expansion was not a priority. For the start of the 2008–09 season, the away section was moved from the corner of the Leazes stand/Milburn stand to the other end of the Leazes stand, where it abuts the East stand, at the same upper level. The area of seats designated as the family enclosure were expanded, and certain corporate areas saw increased pricing.
The first home game of the 2008–09 season, at 3 pm on a Saturday, saw the lowest-ever Premier League attendance at the expanded ground, of 47,711, resulting in cash turnstiles. It was speculated at the time that this was due to the credit crunch; however, with the shock departure of Kevin Keegan before the next home game, future changes in attendances would be hard to attribute to this alone. The first game after Keegan's resignation, a league fixture against Hull on 13 September 2008, registered a crowd of 50,242 amid protests against Ashley and Dennis Wise. This was followed by an attendance of 44,935 on 27 September in a league fixture against Blackburn Rovers, which followed a record low attendance of 20,577 on Wednesday, 24 September in a League Cup fixture, the lowest ever attendance for a competitive first-team match since the 1993 promotion to the top flight, and a drop of over 4,000 from previous lows.
Although Newcastle's crowds inevitably fell in 2009–10 as a result of their relegation and the fact that Britain was still in recession, the Magpies still attracted a modern-day record average attendance for a club at this level with their attendance for the season averaging at 43,383. They also became the first club to attract a league attendance of more than 50,000 at this level in the modern era, and ended the season promoted as champions of the Football League Championship.
In October 2014, a scoreboard was installed in the far corner of the Sir John Hall Stand. The scoreboard was used for the first time on 18 October during a Premier League tie against Leicester City. However the game was delayed one hour, due to damage caused by strong wind to the paneling surrounding the scoreboard. Newcastle United later stated on their website: "Supporter safety was of paramount importance."
Renaming of the stadium
On 10 November 2011, Newcastle United announced that the stadium would officially be renamed Sports Direct Arena, as a temporary measure to "showcase the sponsorship opportunity to interested parties", whilst looking for a sponsor for possible future stadium re-branding. According to the club, the St James' Park title was dropped as not being "commercially attractive".
Previously, in 2009, the club had announced plans to sell the naming rights for the stadium. After protests about the possible loss of the name of the stadium, which included the tabling of an early day motion in Parliament, the club clarified the following week that the move would not involve the loss of the name St James' Park altogether, citing the example of 'SportsDirect.com@StJamesPark' as a potential stadium rights package. The following day, the club announced that the stadium would be known as sportsdirect.com @ St James' Park Stadium temporarily until the end of the season, to showcase the idea behind the package, until the new sponsor was announced. The stadium's official renaming as the Sports Direct Arena, or SDA, caused considerable perturbation amongst Magpie supporters.
On 9 October 2012, payday loan company Wonga.com became Newcastle United's main commercial sponsor and purchased the stadium naming rights. They subsequently announced that the St James' Park name would be restored as part of the deal.'
Text originally from Wikipedia but retrieved from Co-Curate
Listing Description (if available)
Both editions above illustrate the area of Leazes Terrace and later St. James Park. In the 1860s site was simply part of the moor on which the Freemen of Newcastle allow their cattle to graze. Since this moor has shrunk due to the development of the ground and Leazes Park, but can still be seen up Richardson Road. Various footpaths occupied the site from the newly built Leazes Terrace up to the barracks and Spital Tongues colliery on the north end of the moor. At this point Newcastle United wasn't even thought of as professional football had only just begun around the publication of this map.
The second edition at the end of the 19th century illustrates St James' Park on a primitive scale. A small stand had just been constructed on the Gallowgate end allowing greater capacity. Leazes Moor was now divided up and shrunken by ongoing development for Leazes Park, expansion of the Barracks and housing developments to the north. Spital Tongues Colliery was no longer operating.
The 1921 edition shows a much developed St James Park, which looks much more like a football ground with its angled terraces on each side and the famous steps down to Strawberry Place featured. The RVI was constructed at this point to replaced the tired Infirmary at Forth Banks, and the west end had grown exponentially to accomodate the growing demand for workers along the river.
Photograph of St James, 1909. This was a Newcastle v Sunderland derby, and a crowd packed to the brim. It doesn't seem like there was much support for the fans at the back of the terrace to lean on! The image is taken from one of the dwellings at Leazes Terrace, in those days the best seat in the house to watch the game.
Image retrieved from Tyne & Wear Archives
Photograph of St James facing the Leazes End, 1950. There are no records of what match was being played, but it must have been an important once considering how packed the terraces were. There's even a bloke in a cap standing on top of one of the related buildings.
Retrieved from Newcastle Libraries
Photograph of St James from the west, 1975. Featuring the famous tall floodlights, the Civic Centre can be seen in the background, as well as the endless sprawl of the Newcastle suburbs.
Retrieved from Newcastle Libraries