Memorial Stadium (Bristol)

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Memorial Stadium
The Mem
Uplands StandBRFC.JPG
DriBuild Stand at the Memorial Stadium
Former names Memorial Ground
Location Filton Avenue, Horfield, Bristol, BS7 0AQ
Coordinates 51°29′10″N 2°34′59″W / 51.48622°N 2.583134°W / 51.48622; -2.583134
Owner The Memorial Stadium Company
Capacity 12,100 (12,011[1] after segregation, 2,500 seated)
Record attendance 12,011 (Bristol Rovers vs West Bromwich Albion, 9 February 2008)
Field size 101 x 68 metres
Surface Grass
Opened 24 September 1921
Tenants
Bristol Rovers 1996-
Bristol Rugby 1921-2014

The Memorial Stadium, also commonly known by its previous name of The Memorial Ground, is a sports ground in Bristol, England, dedicated to the memory of local rugby union players of the city killed during World War I.[2] It is currently the home stadium of Bristol Rovers. From its foundation in 1921 until moving to Ashton Gate in 2014 the Memorial Ground was the home to Bristol Rugby.

The stadium is also used for the rugby varsity between the city's two universities, University of the West of England and University of Bristol. In 2013, the stadium hosted the Rugby League World Cup Group D match between the Cook Islands and the USA attracting a crowd of 7,247.[3]

History[edit]

Bristol Rovers v Manchester United at the Memorial Stadium, 1999

The site was created on an area of land called Buffalo Bill's Field, after Colonel William "Buffalo Bill" Cody's Wild West Show was held there between 28 September and 3 October 1891.[4] Two years later in September 1893 Clifton RFC played on the site for the first time.

During World War One the site was converted into allotments but after the war Buffalo Bill's Field was bought by Sir Francis Nicholas Cowlin (then the Sheriff of Bristol) and given to Bristol Rugby Club.

In 1921 it became The Memorial Ground, home of Bristol Rugby Club, and was opened on 24 September that year by G B Britton, the Lord Mayor of Bristol, as a home for Bristol Rugby Club.

Situated on Filton Avenue in Horfield, Bristol, it has developed significantly over the years. A massive crowd turned out to watch the first (Bristol Rugby) game ever game to be held there against Cardiff, but did so from wooden terraces and stands.[citation needed] With the advent of leagues in the late 1980s, Bristol looked to develop the Ground, replacing the old Shed on the north side with the Centenary Stand to mark the club's 100th anniversary in 1988. The West Stand, an original feature of the ground, was demolished in 1995 having been condemned, and replaced.

In 1996, Bristol Rovers moved in as tenants of Bristol Rugby Club, and then entered into joint ownership through the Memorial Stadium Company. This arrangement failed after just two years as in 1998 the rugby club was relegated from the Premiership (causing them severe financial difficulties) and under the terms of the agreement Bristol Rovers were able to buy Bristol Rugby's share of the stadium for a 'nominal fee', a clause designed to protect either party should one or the other fall into financial difficulties). The rugby club has since been tenants in their original home.

By 2005, the Memorial Stadium was hosting Bristol Rugby Club back in the Guinness Premiership, with Bristol Rovers continuing to compete in the lower levels of the Football League. A roof was added to the Clubhouse Terrace (paid for by Bristol Rovers Supporters' efforts) and temporary stands at the south and south-west of the ground have brought capacity up to 12,100 (12,011 for football due to terracing that cannot be used due to segregation of home and away fans). Bristol Rugby were again relegated out of the Premiership in 2009 and have not yet returned.

In February 2013, after months of speculation,[5] Bristol Rugby announced that they would move and share a ground with Bristol City at the redeveloped Ashton Gate Stadium[6] The rugby club played their final game at the Mem on 4 June 2014, a Championship play-off final second leg against London Welsh.[7] There was no fairytale ending for Bristol though as London Welsh won the game 21-20 to condemn the side to a sixth straight season outside the Premiership.[8]

The Ground has remained a focal point for the wider Bristol community, and a minute's silence is held annually at the closest game to Remembrance Sunday, while on 11 November a service of remembrance is held at the Memorial Gates with players and officials from both Bristol Rovers and Bristol Rugby attending the service each year.[9]

Stadium future[edit]

The Memorial Stadium Company proposed a wide ranging £35 million refurbishment of the Memorial Stadium, bringing it up to an 18,500 all-seater capacity.[10] On 17 January 2007, Bristol City Council granted permission for the stadium redevelopment.[11]

The new stadium would have included [12][13] a 97-room hotel, 99 student flats, a restaurant, a convenience store, offices and a Public Gym.

On 17 August 2007, it was announced that the stadium's redevelopment had been delayed and would commence in May 2008 and finish in December 2009. During this time period of reconstruction, Bristol Rovers would have ground-shared with Cheltenham Town at Whaddon Road[14] while Bristol Rugby would have played across the Severn Bridge, sharing Newport Gwent Dragons' Rodney Parade ground.[15] The Section 106 legal agreement, which was the main cause for the delay in the redevelopment, was finally signed on 4 January 2008,[16] but more delays were encountered when on 30 May 2008 Rovers admitted that their preferred student accommodation providers had pulled out of the project, leaving the club to find an alternative company.[17] This caused the redevelopment to be put back another year, to 2009.[18] More delays, mostly attributed to the ongoing financial crisis, meant that by mid-2011, the stadium redevelopment had yet to begin.

In June 2011, Bristol Rovers announced its intentions to relocate the club to the newly proposed UWE Stadium instead of redeveloping the Memorial Stadium. In order to fund the new stadium, the Mem is to be sold to supermarket chain Sainsbury's.[19] Planning permission was granted for the UWE Stadium site in July 2012[20] and the Sainsbury's plans for the Memorial Stadium in January 2013.[21] Work is expected to begin on the UWE Stadium in the second half of 2014 after multiple delays caused by legal challenges (launched against the Sainsbury's supermarket plan by a local pressure group).[22][23] During construction, the Memorial Stadium will continue to be used during this time with work to redevelop the site not beginning until Rovers complete their move to the new stadium.

Average attendances[edit]

Season Bristol Rovers Bristol Rugby
Attendance League Attendance League
2013-14 6,420 League Two 5,808 Championship
2012-13 6,308 League Two 4,859 Championship
2011-12 6,035 League Two 5,351 Championship
2010-11 6,253 League One 4,273 Championship
2009-10 7,042 League One 5,261 Championship
2008-09 7,170 League One 7,435 Premiership
2007-08 6,849 League One 9,175 Premiership
2006-07 7,931 League Two 10,152[24] Premiership
2005-06 5,989 League Two 9,265 Premiership
2004-05 7,077 League Two 5,234 National One

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.footballgroundguide.com/bristol_rovers/
  2. ^ "Bristol Rugby History". bristolrugby.co.uk. Retrieved 30 March 2014. 
  3. ^ "WED 30TH OCT 2013, 20:00 - GROUP D". rlwc2013.com. Retrieved 30 March 2014. 
  4. ^ "Clifton Rugby Football Club History". http://www.cliftonrfchistory.co.uk/. Retrieved 9 April 2014. 
  5. ^ "We might not move to Ashton Gate, says Bristol Rugby chief". ThisIsBristol. 2 October 2012. Retrieved 17 February 2013. 
  6. ^ "Club Will Groundshare With Bristol City". Bristol Rugby. 5 February 2013. Retrieved 17 February 2013. 
  7. ^ "Battling Bristol can't find a fairytale finish to life at the Memorial Stadium". Bristol Post. 5 June 2014. Retrieved 5 June 2014. 
  8. ^ "BBristol Rugby miss out on promotion to the Aviva Premiership". Bristol Post. 4 June 2014. Retrieved 5 June 2014. 
  9. ^ "Memorial Gates Fall Silent". bristolrovers.co.uk. 11 November 2013. Retrieved 30 March 2014. 
  10. ^ Club submits revised stadium plan BBC News. Retrieved 23 October 2006
  11. ^ Memorial stadium given go-ahead BBC News. Retrieved 17 January 2007
  12. ^ Bristol City Council planning consultation: Memorial Stadium, Filton Avenue Bristol City Council. Retrieved 25 April 2007
  13. ^ "Stadium Amendments Given The OK". Bristol Rovers FC. 2 April 2008. Retrieved 30 May 2008. 
  14. ^ Football and rugby stay in city BBC News. Retrieved 1 October 2007
  15. ^ Bristol confirm move to Newport BBC News. Retrieved 6 January 2013
  16. ^ Signed, Sealed, Delivered bristolrovers.co.uk. Retrieved 4 January 2008
  17. ^ "Memorial Stadium plans hit hurdle". BBC News. 30 May 2008. Retrieved 1 June 2008. 
  18. ^ "Stadium regeneration delayed". bristolrovers.co.uk. 3 June 2008. Retrieved 3 June 2008. 
  19. ^ "ROVERS ANNOUNCE NEW STADIUM PLANS". bristolrovers.co.uk. 9 June 2011. Retrieved 9 June 2011. 
  20. ^ "Councillors approve stadium plans". South Gloucestershire Council (southglos.gov.uk). 19 July 2012. Retrieved 22 January 2013. 
  21. ^ "SAINSBURY'S APPROVED". Bristol Rovers Official Website (bristolrovers.co.uk). 16 January 2013. Retrieved 21 January 2013. 
  22. ^ "Judicial Review Granted". Retrieved 30 March 2014. 
  23. ^ "SAJID JAVID VISITS THE MEM". Retrieved 6 January 2014. 
  24. ^ Excludes two home matches played at Ashton Gate Stadium

External links[edit]

  • The Memorial Ground, Flickr Group Photographic record of the Memorial Stadium
  • This is Bristol Bristol Evening Post
  • Bristol Football Club (RFU), Dave Fox and Mark Hoskins, 2 vols., Tempus Publishing
  • Bristol Rovers: The Definitive History 1883–2003, Stephen Byrne and Mike Jay, Tempus Publishing