The Findus Stand (previously John Smith's stand) in 2003.
North East Lincolnshire
|Record attendance||31,651 (vs Wolverhampton Wanderers, 20 February 1937)|
|Field size||101.5 × 68.5 m|
|Opened||2 September 1899|
|Renovated||1925 (Barrett's Stand)
1939 (Osmond Stand)
1961 (Pontoon Stand)
1982 (Findus Stand)
|Grimsby Town (1899–present)|
Blundell Park is a football ground in Cleethorpes, North East Lincolnshire, England and home to Grimsby Town Football Club. The stadium was built in 1899, but only one of the original stands remains. The current capacity of the ground is 9,546, after being made all-seater in summer 1995, reducing the number from around 27,000. Several relegations in previous years meant the expansion seating was also taken away; that reduced the capacity further from around 12,000 to what it is now.
The stadium is Grimsby Town's third ground, having previously played at Clee Park, Lovett Street and Abbey Park in the club's first twenty years of existence. The record attendance at Blundell Park was 31,651 in an FA Cup tie against Wolverhampton Wanderers on 20 February 1937. The two clubs also hold the record attendance at Manchester United's Old Trafford stadium when 76,962 people saw the two sides meet again in the 1939 FA Cup semi-final.
Grimsby Town Football Club moved into their new Blundell Park stadium in the summer of 1899, having relocated from Abbey Park, and bringing with them all the fixtures and fittings, as well as the Abbey Park and the Hazel Grove stands. The opening match was a Football League Second Division fixture against Luton Town on 2 September 1899, with 4,000 spectators seeing the teams draw 3–3. In 1901 a new Main Stand was built on the northern side of the ground.
In 1925 the Abbey Park Stand was demolished and in its place was built the Barrett's Stand. In 1937 the club's record attendance of 31,651 was recorded when the club met Wolverhampton Wanderers in an FA Cup tie on 20 February 1937. In 1939 around the time of the break-out of the Second World War the Hazel Grove Stand, the final remaining stand from the previous ground was demolished and was replaced by the Osmond Stand.
In 1953 the club introduced floodlights to the ground and with that enabling Grimsby Town to play nighttime fixtures. In 1961, the 63-year-old Pontoon Stand was demolished and replaced with a new stand of the same name. In 1980 the ground was renovated again, the Main Stand the ground's only original stand was made an all-seater, and the Barrett's stand which was built in 1925 was demolished and replaced the two tier Findus stand, which now became the ground's largest stand. Following the Taylor Report which documented the Hillsborough disaster, Blundell Park was made an all seater stadium in 1995. The club in 1995 also introduced temporary seating in the partings between the Pontoon and Main Stands and the Osmond and Findus stands. The club's largest attendance since being made an all seater stadium was 9,528 on 3 March 1999 against Sunderland in a Football League Division One tie. Following Grimsby Town's relegation from the second tier of English football to the fourth between in 2003 and 2004, the club removed the expansion seating, which would only have made returns in high-profile cup fixtures.
The ground as it stands
In 1899 Blundell Park was opened with the original Pontoon Stand constructed alongside the Main Stand, but this stand was eventually demolished in 1961 and was replaced by the current Pontoon Stand which was built by funds raised by the club's supporters. The stand is situated behind the goal to the right of the tunnel and was converted to an all-seater facility in 1995 in response to the Taylor Report following the Hillsborough disaster of 1989 and the seats were laid out in black and white stripes to reflect the club's colours.
The Pontoon mainly houses the more vocal supporters of the club, and often houses a drummer; however in the mid-1980s the stand became the away stand with the Osmond Stand reserved for home fans, the thought being that the Pontoon's more open design would make the Grimsby Town supporters' presence more noticeable in the remainder of the stadium. This was extremely unpopular with club supporters and reversed.
The Findus Stand
The Findus Stand is the third to be built on the opposite side of the ground to the tunnel and changing rooms. Originally the club had moved the Abbey Park Stand from their previous ground the Abbey Park Stadium, this stand was eventually demolished in 1925 and was replaced by the Barrett's Stand. The Barrett's itself was eventually demolished in 1980 and was replaced with a two tier stand paid for by the fish processing firm Findus. The stand therefore was named the "Findus Stand".
The stand was opened in 1982 and is the largest inside the stadium with the upper tier offering a scenic view of the Humber Estuary, Spurn Point and the North Sea, from this point you can clearly view the shipping going down the estuary. The lower tier's front rows are uncovered and between the two tiers are a row of corporate boxes. Housed within the stand is the boardroom, ticket office, club shop, bars and the "McMenemy's" function suite and restaurant which is named after former manager Lawrie McMenemy.
In 1990s Findus ceased production in the town, so the stand went through several other sponsored names. Firstly the stand was renamed the Stones Bitter stand before later becoming the John Smiths stand in 1997 and then the Carlsberg stand in 2004. Findus returned to the Town in 2009 and the stand then reverted to its original name.
Opposite the Findus stand, on the north side of the ground, is the Main Stand which dates from 1901 and is often claimed to be the oldest stand in the Football League until the club's relegation to Non-league football in 2010. Only the central part of the stand dates from 1901, the rest having been modified in some guise or other. This stand houses the changing rooms and disabled supporters' areas. The players' tunnel runs from the centre of this stand onto the pitch between the two dugouts.
To the left of the Main Stand, is the Osmond Stand. This replaced the Hazel Grove Stand which was moved from the club's previous Abbey Park Stadium home. The Osmond was built in 1939 when the Hazel Grove was demolished shortly before the start of World War II. The Osmond stand is also a two tier stand, but unlike the Findus Stand, the Osmond only has steps separating the two parts. The stand also houses the away supporters, with home fans occasionally sitting in the half closest to the Main Stand when the club are playing a club with a low number of travelling fans. The stand holds around 2,000 seats, 1,000 or so of those seats have a restricted view due to the roof supports and height of the roof.
The ground did briefly hold home supporters in the mid-1980s when the club decided the move the away supporters to the Pontoon Stand, but this proved to be unpopular with Grimsby supporters and so the decision was reversed. The corner between the Main Stand and the Osmond Stand is the only enclosed corner in the whole ground, the corner is shut off and this section is the only standing part of the stadium however with it being shut off from the fans the ground is still classed as an all seated stadium.
When Blundell Park became an all seated stadium in 1995, the overall capacity of the ground decreased accordingly. The club erected temporary seating in the north-west and south-east corners, colloquially known as "the green seats". These consisted of four blocks of makeshift scaffold seating approximately 10 rows back. The temporary seating were intended to provide additional capacity when needed, but were in regular use on a weekly basis while the club enjoyed a lengthy spell playing in the English Championship.
Relegation from the Championship led to reduced match attendance and temporary seating became largely redundant. In special cup fixtures, for instance the 2005 League Cup games with Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United the temporary seating is reinstalled for one-off use.
Due to the changes in seating, the ground's overall capacity dropped from just under 12,000 while in the Championship to just under 10,000 in League Two.
A view for the Pontoon Stand looking at the Main Stand on the left, Osmond Stand Middle and Findus Stand right (taken on New Year's Day 2012).
Over the years Blundell Park has been host to a number of international matches. In 2001 it hosted France U18 against Finland U18, and over the years has also hosted England U17, England U18 and England women's national under-19 football team games.
As parts of Blundell Park are old, the cost of maintaining the stadium, particularly the wooden sections, is expensive. Compared to many football grounds there is a serious lack of corporate facilities and amenities for visiting supporters and bars and food outlets within the stadium are usually crowded and unable to realise their potential income. Blundell Park is rarely used for anything other than football whereas many clubs with more modern stadia are able to let out the ground for concerts, corporate events and other sports such as rugby. Further complications arise from the location of the stadium among terraced houses and next to the bank of the River Humber (separated by a railway line) which makes redeveloping Blundell Park to accommodate the 20,000 supporters required for promotion to the Premier League prohibitely expensive. Transport links to Blundell Park are poor – Cleethorpes railway station is a 30-minute walk away and Grimsby Town railway station is a 50-minute walk away. Parking is largely limited to the streets of terraced houses surrounding the stadium. There is no secure parking at Blundell Park and no additional provision for public transport such as park and ride. Blundell Park is the lowest football stadium in the United Kingdom, at a height of only 2 feet above sea-level. While not in immediate danger from rising tides, it is prudent for Grimsby Town to pursue a move to higher ground.
Since the mid-1990s the club has been pursuing a movement to a new ground on the western outskirts of Grimsby at Great Coates, adjacent to the A180 dual carriageway. Planning permission has been granted for the provisionally titled Conoco Stadium, but opposition by some residents combined with the economic crisis have seen the project continually delayed. The financing of the new stadium would come primarily from the sale of the land at Blundell Park and from retail development on the land surrounding the new stadium as well as substantially increased revenue from the new stadium itself.
The highest ever attendance at the ground was 31,651 for an FA Cup 5th Round match on 20 February 1937 against Wolverhampton Wanderers. Since the ground was converted to all seating for the start of the 1995–96 season after the Taylor Report, the highest attendance was 9,528 for a Football League Division One (Second Tier) match against Sunderland on 13 March 1999.
- Paul Smith & Shirley Smith (2005) The Ultimate Directory of English & Scottish Football League Grounds Second Editiion 1888–2005, Yore Publications, p24, ISBN 0954783042
- English Stadia Height
- Mariners submit new stadium plans (BBC Sport)
- Official Site
- Blundell Park at The National Association of Disabled Supporters
- McMenemys Official Website