|Fir Park Stadium|
|Location||Motherwell, North Lanarkshire|
|Renovated||1995 (Davie Cooper Stand)|
|Architect||Bill Dickie (Davie Cooper Stand & South Stand)|
Gretna F.C. (2007–2008)
Fir Park Stadium is a football stadium situated in Motherwell, North Lanarkshire, Scotland. The stadium plays host to the home matches of Scottish Premiership club Motherwell and was the temporary home of Gretna for the 2007–08 SPL season. Motherwell moved to the stadium in 1895, previously playing their football at Dalziel Park.
Motherwell F.C. was formed in 1886. It played at sites on Roman Road and Dalziel Park until 1895, when Fir Park was opened. The ground was laid out in a wooded area belonging to Lord Hamilton of Dalzell, whose racing colours were claret and amber. Motherwell then adopted these colours themselves.
For most of the 20th century, the only stand at Fir Park was a two-tier main stand. The record attendance for the stadium is 35,632 against Rangers in a 1951–52 Scottish Cup replay. Motherwell went on to win the competition. Two years later Motherwell built an enclosure roof over the eastern terrace, costing £6,500. Floodlight lamps were built on the two roofs and the first floodlit game, against Preston, was played in 1956. The enclosure roof was damaged by strong winds, however, which meant that large corner floodlight pylons were built in 1959.
Construction of a new main stand began in 1962. The £92,000 cost of this work was financed by a small quote and the selling of two players, Pat Quinn and Ian St. John. To minimise disruption to the old stand, the steel frame was built over and behind it. Construction of the main stand stopped 20 yards short of the south end, however, because a local resident successfully objected to a completed stand. The objection was made because it would have restricted light to the garden and reduced the value of the property. By the time the property owner had decided to sell, Motherwell did not have the funds or will to complete a full length main stand. The club instead bought the house and used it for their offices.
In 1977, Fir Park came within the terms of the Safety of Sports Grounds Act 1975. Only routine work was needed to keep the ground within the legislation, but it reduced capacity from 35,000 to 22,500. This included 3,500 seats in the Main Stand and two open terraces behind each goal. The Taylor Report in 1990 mandated that all top division clubs develop all-seater stadiums. Motherwell also had to overcome the economic challenges caused by the closure of the nearby Ravenscraig steelworks. The club won the Scottish Cup in 1991, which financed the £750,000 conversion of the East Enclosure to seating.
A two tier South Stand, which cost £2.2 million, was opened in April 1993. Two years later, Motherwell opened a single tier North Stand, completing the stadium in its present format. The North Stand was dedicated to former Motherwell player Davie Cooper, who died in the year that it was opened. Both of these stands were designed by the company WH Dickie Architects, owned by the club's director Bill Dickie. The Main Stand was renamed the Phil O'Donnell Stand in January 2008, to honour the Motherwell captain who died on the Fir Park pitch. A sculptured tribute to O'Donnell was added to the north wall of the stand in 2011.
In recent seasons, Fir Park has received negative publicity for its pitch. It was waterlogged and several games were postponed in the 2007–08 season. The pitch and the consequent fixture congestion forced Gretna, who were ground-sharing with Motherwell in that season, to play one of their league games at Almondvale Stadium in Livingston. In the 2008–09 season, a game against Hearts was called off due to the pitch being frozen, which prompted media criticism as the required under-soil heating should have prevented this.
The pitch underwent extensive remedial work, costing £350,000, in preparation for the 2009–10 Scottish Premier League season. There was a severe winter in 2009–10, however, which damaged the pitch greatly. The club tried to make the best of the situation by relaying both goal mouths. In season 2010–11, the club removed the top few inches of the pitch and completely relaid the pitch. They also added twisted sand fibre which should prevent the pitch from tearing as easily.
On 2 December 2011, a match against Hibernian was abandoned at half-time due to a floodlight fire causing safety concerns.
Structure and facilities
Fir Park is an all-seater stadium with a capacity of 13,677. The stadium has an unbalanced look about it, with one large stand contrasting with three smaller stands. Until recently, the Davie Cooper and South stands had their advertising slogans changed in line with the club's main sponsor. For example, Motorola was displayed in the mid-1990s. Both of these stands were designed by Bill Dickie, who was also a club director and SFA president.
The Phil O'Donnell Stand, on the west side of the ground, was built in the early 1960s, with two players being sold to fund its development. The stand is an unusual structure in that the steel girders run for the full length of the pitch, but the stand only runs for two thirds the length of the pitch. This was due to a dispute with a home owner beside the stadium during construction, which the club lost, and thus were unable to complete the stand across the whole length of the pitch. During the construction of the South and Davie Cooper Stands, the main stand was re-clad and given a makeover to complement the modernised stadium, with windshields constructed at each end offering protection to fans. The stand has two hospitality suites, named The Centenary Suite and The Millennium Suite. It also has a roof-mounted gantry for television cameras, and press facilities.
The East Enclosure was formerly an area of open terracing, which was roofed in 1954. To meet the Taylor Report requirements, it was converted to seating and re-cladded in the early 1990s. Although the East Enclosure is shallow, it allows sufficient legroom by only having seats on every second step. It houses the more vocal home support at Fir Park. The Scottish Health Council slogan "Keep cigarettes away from the match" adorned the roof for many years, but this was replaced by a Cash Converters advertisement in 2011. The Enclosure backs onto a concourse and then Knowetop Primary School.
The South Stand, known as the Maxim Office Park Stand for sponsorship reasons, dominates the surrounding area, as it can be seen from all around Motherwell and the nearby M74 motorway. It is a two-tiered structure holding 4,856 fans and was opened on 26 April 1993 with a friendly match against Coventry City. The upper deck offers a panoramic view, beyond the centre of Motherwell to the distant Ochil Hills and Ben Lomond. It normally houses the away support. When the South Stand was first opened, Motherwell offered £20 debentures guaranteeing tickets for the games played by the relevant visiting team at Fir Park. This offer targeted supporters of the Old Firm clubs, with 600 debentures sold by late 1995, mostly to Rangers fans. Unusually for a stand designated for away fans, it has a row of corporate boxes running along between the two tiers. The South Stand also houses a gymnasium and warm up area.
The Davie Cooper (north) Stand is of relatively similar design to the South Stand, but it only has one tier and a capacity of 2,373 seats. Motherwell were refused planning permission to construct a two-tier structure, of similar design as the South Stand, at that end. This stand was officially opened on 6 May 1995. It houses the club shop, the Davie Cooper Suite, an IT department and hospitality boxes.
During the 2007–08 season, Gretna rented Fir Park from Motherwell and played all but one of their home SPL games there. The now-defunct club also played their UEFA Cup tie against Derry City at the stadium in 2006. Over the years the stadium has played host to several Scottish Challenge Cup finals and hosted Scottish League Cup semi-finals in 2007 and 2010. Fir Park also hosted the opening ceremony of the 2011 International Children's Games, which were being held in Lanarkshire.
At the 2008 annual general meeting, Motherwell FC announced plans to investigate the possibility of a redevelopment of Fir Park, or the possibility of a move to a new ground. Motherwell chairman John Boyle indicated at the following year's AGM that the club would not be leaving Fir Park within the next 5–10 years. In June 2010, the club said that the repair of the pitch, which had come in for some fierce criticism in the latter part of the 2009-10 season, would be the last major investment at the stadium. Most recently, in September 2011, vice-chairman Derek Weir indicated that the club are 'nowhere near' a ground move, insisting that the £15 million it would cost would be beyond their means.
Motherwell railway station is approximately 15 minutes walking distance from Fir Park. Local trains on the Argyle Line serve Airbles railway station, which is closer to the ground. People travelling by car can use the M74 motorway, leaving at junction 6. The A723 and B754 (Airbles Road) roads lead to Fir Park. Alternatively, visitors from the east or north who come to Motherwell via Newhouse (junction 6 of the M8 motorway) should follow the A723 through Carfin to Motherwell and then take the A721 road to Fir Park. Car parking is available in the surrounding streets.
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