Ashton Gate Stadium
|Full name||Ashton Gate Stadium|
|Location||Ashton Road, Bristol BS3 2EJ|
|Owner||Bristol City F.C.|
|Field size||115 x 75 yards|
|Bedminster F.C. (until 1900)
Bristol City F.C. (1904–present)
Bristol Rugby (2014-present)
Ashton Gate Stadium is a stadium in Ashton Gate, Bristol, England, and is the home of Bristol City F.C. and recently Bristol Rugby. Located in the south-west of the city, just south of the River Avon, it currently has an all-seated capacity of 13,414, due to redevelopment, which should increase to a capacity of 27,000 by 2016.
History and arrangement
Ashton Gate was the home of Bedminster F.C. until their 1900 merger with Bristol South End who played at St John's Lane, and the merged club played at St John's Lane until the end of the 1903–04 season, when they moved to Ashton Gate.
The ground has also played a part in the history of rugby in the city. Bristol Rugby have played there on a number of occasions since the 1920s, the most recent being on 27 December 2006 when they defeated local rivals Bath Rugby 16–6 whilst selling out the stadium for an all-time record Premiership crowd outside of Twickenham. Several rugby internationals have been held, starting with England versus Wales in 1899. One hundred years later, the All Blacks took on Tonga in a 1999 Rugby World Cup pool match.
In mid-2006 it was announced that Bristol Rugby would be taking two games of the 2006-07 Guinness Premiership to Ashton Gate, the matches against Bath Rugby and the Leicester Tigers, the stadium is also to be used to house Gloucester RFC, for their match against Bristol Rugby, whilst Kingsholm Stadium is being redeveloped.
Wedlock "East End" Stand
The old East End was demolished during the summer of 2014 and is being completely rebuilt to modern standards. It was built as a covered terrace in 1928, converted to seats in the 1990s and was the traditional home fans' end until 1994. It is known as the East End to City fans.
For the first time in the 21st Century, City fans were allowed to purchase a season ticket in the East End for the 2007–2008 season. Although fewer than 300 fans took the club up on the offer, the supporters within the stand tried hard to generate a positive atmosphere, with a continental 'Ultra' style movement, aided by the stand's acoustics. It was also known as the covered end, particularly in the days when the Atyeo stand was known as the open end.
The Williams Stand on the south-west side, which includes the directors' box and press box, was built in 1958. The lower part of the stand was a terrace known as the Grand Enclosure until it was converted to seating in the 1990s. This stand was also named after a former chairman Des Williams.
The Dolman Stand', which lies opposite it, was built in 1970. To some, it appears a dominating sight over the other 3 stands in the stadium. At that time it was built it had a small, flat Family Enclosure in front of it, which was later built up and converted to seating. In the summer of 2007, the original wooden seats in the upper area were replaced by modern plastic seats. It is named after the former club chairman and president Harry Dolman. Starting in January 2015, redevelopment work started in this stand by removal or the lower section of seating.
The most recent addition to the stadium is the Atyeo Stand, which was built in 1994 to replace an open terrace, and contains new dressing rooms and a large gymnasium. It is named after Bristol City legend John Atyeo, who played 645 times for City and scored 351 goals, making him the club's top goalscorer ever. He died in 1993, a year before the new stand opened. Away fans are accommodated in the North West section of this stand.
In 2005 the club announced that the Wedlock Stand, the oldest part of the ground, would be redeveloped at a cost of £7 million during the 2005–06 season, with some funding from the Football Foundation's Football Stadia Improvement Fund. Football capacity would have dropped from 19,000 to 15,000 during the work and increased to 21,000 when the new stand opened. The new stand was to include 5,200 seats, some reserved for long-term debenture holders, 16 corporate hospitality boxes and a new bar. The work was scheduled to begin in early July, but on 12 July 2005, Bristol City announced that planning permission and contracts for construction and for catering and bar concessions (which were central to funding the stand) were still not concluded, and that work would be delayed until after the start of the season. On 9 November 2005 the club decided that they were unable to go ahead with redevelopment of the stand until the summer of 2006 (work has still not proceeded), though refurbishment work in other parts of the ground, partly funded by the Football Foundation, would go ahead.
After promotion to the championship in 2006/2007, Bristol City resurrected plans to rebuild the Wedlock Stand at Ashton Gate, two years after the project was first proposed, taking the next step towards having a stadium which holds 42,000 fans.
Planning permission was granted in 2005 to redevelop this end of the ground, which currently houses away supporters. Work was due to start in the July of that year. It was put back twelve months and then, mainly due to a lack of funds, was postponed indefinitely. After having won promotion to the Championship, City decided to press ahead, with the builders due to start work at the end of the 2007/2008 season.
The back of the Wedlock stand would have become the main entrance to the stadium and according to chief executive Colin Sexstone, "will have a fantastic concourse and 16 executive boxes." It will be even taller than the Dolman Stand. Although no images are available for the Wedlock design, the club said it will be very similar to the single-tier construction proposed two years ago. The new stand, which would cost in the region of £7 million to build, would house 5,300 fans, taking the capacity of Ashton Gate to 21,000 when segregation is used. Away fans would be moved to another part of the ground, although it is yet to be decided where.
The club were also granted permission to redevelop the Williams Stand in 1998, and have consistently renewed that so it still applies today. They planned to rebuild the stand completely and then fill in one of the corners, providing more than 13,000 seats, taking the total capacity up to 29,000.
However, these plans were abandoned, when on 29 November 2007, after 100 years at Ashton Gate, it was announced that Bristol City were planning to move to a new stadium near 'The Gate'. After conducting a comprehensive fans survey, a preliminary design was drawn up of a 30,000 capacity stadium with the option to increase to 42,000, should Bristol City require the expansion (the latter capacity was originally a requirement of being a host city as part of England's unsuccessful 2018 World cup bid). Full planning permission was won in 2009, but building work was put on hold after a decision in 2010 by an independent inspector that the Ashton Vale site should become a town green. Although this decision was later rejected by Bristol City Council allowing part of the site to be used for the stadium, a High Court judge ruled there should be a judicial review into the council's decision.
Redevelopment of Ashton Gate from 2014
Following extensive planning and the failed bid to develop a new ground at Ashton Vale, and criticism of the failure of so many major leisure and sporting projects in Bristol, Bristol City finally decided to press ahead with a major redevelopment of the current site at Ashton Gate. This was approved in late 2013, with final clearance given in spring 2014, and work started in May 2014, following the final home fixture of the 2013/14 season.
The plans for redevelopment will be as follows:
– Shifting of the current pitch by 5 metres to enable the Dolman extension, and a new pitch laid to enable shared use with the rugby club
– Other works to the ground to bring it in line with modern stadia, with capacity of around 29,000
The works are planned to be completed by 2016/17.
Ashton Gate is now the home of not only Bristol City but Bristol Rugby as well, after moving in, in August 2014.
Ashton Gate has also held two international rugby union matches, as follows:
|Date||Competition||Home team||Away team|
|18 January 1908||1908 Home Nations Championship||England||18||Wales||28|
|3 October 1999||1999 Rugby World Cup, Pool 2||New Zealand||45||Tonga||9|
|Date||Competition||Home team||Away team|
|20 December 1911||1911/12 Kangaroo Tour||Wales & West||3||Australia||23|
- Paul Smith & Shirley Smith (2005) The Ultimate Directory of English & Scottish Football League Grounds Second Edition 1888–2005, Yore Publications, p16, ISBN 0954783042
- "Bristol City Announce New Stadium". Bristol City Football Club. 29 November 2007. Archived from the original on 14 February 2008. Retrieved 3 February 2008.
- "Compromise urged over Ashton Vale town green bid". BBC News. 30 January 2012.
- BBC New title=Why does Bristol never build anything?. 16 January 2014 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-bristol-24924792. Missing or empty
- "It's all kicking off as work starts on £40m makeover for Bristol City stadium". Bristol Post. 28 April 2014.
- "Sir Elton comes to Bristol". BBC Bristol. BBC. 10 December 2003. Retrieved 30 July 2012.
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