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Pride Park
From a tip to super stadium in 46 Weeks
Derby County’s decision to relocate to Pride Park was the biggest in its history – and a turning point for the fortunes of the whole site.

The Taylor Report into the Hillsborough disaster of 1989, in which 96 people died, sent shockwaves throughout football with a recommendation that clubs in the English and Scottish Premiership and the English First Division should be all-seater by the 1994-95 season.

With the added problems of wooden structures at the Baseball Ground, which were considered unacceptable after the Bradford City fire in 1985 in which 56 people died, the Rams board made the historic decision in 1993 to move.

The plan was for a purpose-built stadium at Pride Park to seat 30,000 fans, 4,000 car parking spaces, restaurant and conference facilities, a fitness centre, a supporters club and new training ground.

A year later the plans had changed to become part of a £46m project by the Stadivarios group that would also include a 10,000-seat indoor arena.

But businessman Peter Gadsby who headed the Derby-based Birch building and property development company and was then an associate director of the club, felt that the scheme could not go ahead because of the cost and the ability to deliver such an ambitious scheme.

Later that year Lionel Pickering became chairman of the board and plans were drawn up to modernise and extend the Baseball Ground to meet the obligations of the Taylor Report at a cost of £10m.

Planning permission was granted and contracts were let to construction giant Taylor Woodrow with work due to start in January 1996.

But over the Christmas/New Year holiday Mr Gadsby, who had been put in charge of the redevelopment, drove around a deserted Pride Park.

He had seen on television what was happening at Middlesborough with its new stadium and had second thoughts. He hurriedly arranged a meeting with city council chief executive Ray Cowlishaw and council leader Bob Laxton to discuss the idea of starting afresh at Pride Park.

The board agreed the idea and the club persuaded the council that it would settle for a smaller site than originally planned.

A site was identified next to a main road which was cleared and had no takers.

“Taylor Woodrow – the company behind the Middlesborough scheme – were persuaded to suspend the contract at the Baseball Ground without costs for five weeks in which we had to agree layout, design and costs of a new stadium,” recalls Mr Gadsby.

On February 21, 1996, the historic decision of plans for a £16m state-of-the-art stadium were announced to fans watching a game against Luton.

The club paid the council £1.8m for the land, and the club’s four directors – chairman Lionel Pickering, Peter Gadsby (now vice chairman), Stuart Webb and John Kirkland chipped in £2.5m towards a package deal to pay for the stadium.

Although based on Middlesborough’s stadium the plans had more than 30 amendments and work began in September, 1996.

More than 75,000 fans went to a visitor centre to see a video about plans for the new stadium and to buy season tickets. Others paid for their names to go on special bricks outside.

The news that the Queen would open the new football stadium – the first time she had ever done this – on July 18, 1997, ahead of the scheduled completion date was great news for the club and Derby.

But it meant workers, who at one time were behind schedule, pulling out all the stops to get everything ready in time.

What had been a wasteland 46 weeks earlier had been transformed into a super stadium.

“I am delighted with the stadium, I never anticipated it would be such a success,” said Mr Gadsby. “The compliments that have been paid from people both in and out of the game is that it has a warm and friendly feel.”

Mr Pickering said of Pride Park: “From my youth I only remember this area as railway sidings and a municipal tip and what has happened to Pride Park is wonderful for Derby.

So many businesses were attracted to the site once we had moved.

“I still get a buzz when I arrive for a home game – it’s a dramatic sight, a true county landmark.”

International venue
More than 1,000 pre-cast concrete piles were sunk into Pride Park to start the work on the new stadium.

This was followed by 6,500 tonnes of concrete and more than 2,100 tonnes of steelwork.

The final cost for the stadium, which includes later additions, now stands at around £28m.

Instead of the original 30,000 seats, it now has 33,597.

“Although there are no immediate plans for further development, the shape and format of the stadium means that it can be extended to take up to 40,000 people,” said spokesman Damon Parkin.

Club chairman Lionel Pickering took a mahogany bar and mirrors from the old Baseball Hotel in Shaftesbury Crescent before it was demolished to incorporate into the Baseball Bar and Grill at the new stadium.

The pitch at Pride Park is five yards longer and four yards wider than that at the old Baseball Ground and has a three-metre grass margin.

At 105 metres long and 68 metres wide it meets with standards for international venues. It has hosted three under-21 internationals and an international friendly.

Mowing the pitch one way is a seven-and-a-half mile route. Cutting it both ways and marking it out for a match is a 19-mile trip. There are 26 miles of undersoil heating.

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