The Plans That Could Have Transformed St James Park
With the current argument raging on around the club’s decision to sell off ground around St James Park, thus making it impossible to further expand the ground in the future, I decided to explore the past proposals for our beloved football cathedral that never quite came to fruition.
In 1921, Newcastle United were considered one of the giants of the game. They already had three league championships and one FA cup in their trophy cabinet and wished to have a stadium worthy of their team. They entrusted architect Archibald Leitch and he drew up these plans for the new stadium. The plan fell through, although the Leazes End was covered, and terracing was improved to Leitch’s exact designs.
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As well as football, the new development would also host Boxing, Badminton, Cycling, Athletics, Bowling and Table Tennis. Also featured would be an all weather pitch and a supporters’ complex. The now six times FA cup winners, however, opposed the idea and the stadium was never built.
Capacity was proposed at around 63,000 – 31,000 seated and 32,000 standing.
Also included in the plans were 2 gyms, 4 multi-purpose halls, 5-a-side football and Rugby fives courts, 13 squash courts, swimming, diving and learner pools and a supporters’ club and restaurant. The plan fell through when the club became reluctant to share with the university.
Two years after winning the Fairs Cup, the club submitted plans for a 47,000 all seater stadium. The project fell through when the club couldn’t afford the project. However, part of the project did go ahead, with the new East Stand completed in 1973.
There were a few different avenues that were explored by NUFC when the forward thinking Sir John Hall was chairman of the club but this is the idea that nearly became reality. Sir John had a vision of turning Newcastle United FC into Newcastle United Sporting Club.
He had spent the last few years buying up local sports teams. Newcastle Gosforth Rugby Club (now Newcastle Falcons) was purchased along with an ice hockey and a basketball club. These plans see NUFC moving to a new stadium a few hundred metres down the road on Leazes Moor, and St James’ Park being shrunk into a much smaller stadium called St James’ Centre that would house both the ice hockey and basketball club, along with concerts and exhibitions.
The stadium would originally hold 55,000 seats but would be built in such a way that it could be extended to a 75,000 capacity at a later date.
The ‘ST JAMES’ CENTRE’ was an important part of the overall plan. This was to be an indoor stadium on the site of the current St James’ Park.
The South Stand and South West corner would remain as they were, the East and Milburn stands would be demolished, and the Sir John Hall stand and corners would be dismantled and re-erected closer to the remaining ‘South Stand’, to form the indoor stadium . .. as shown, with the building over Strawberry Place linking to the ‘new build’ over St James’
This plan didn’t see the light of day due to local residents signing a petition objecting the proposal as well as lobbying from environmentalists about building on the moor. The club was therefore forced to rebuild St James’ Park as we know it now, at a hugely greater cost.
There was a further proposal announced, only a matter of months before Mike Ashley bought the club, by the then chairman Freddy Shepherd.
This plan was to expand the stadium onto the now disputed land. The capacity would rise to around 60,000, and an exhibition centre, hotel, and apartments would be built on the land. This plan was at very early days and as far as I remember hadn’t been approved by the council planners as yet. The plan was scrapped when the new owner purchased the club, as it was seen as not financially viable.
Well there you go, I hope you enjoyed my first ever post!
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