The Darlington Arena
|The Darlington Arena|
The Darlington Arena
|Owner||Darlington Mowden Park R.F.C.|
|Operator||Darlington Mowden Park R.F.C.|
|Capacity||25,000(restricted to 10,000 by local planning regulations)|
|Field dimensions||110 by 74 yards (101 × 68 m)|
|Darlington F.C. 2003–2012
Darlington Mowden Park R.F.C. 2012–
The Darlington Arena is a stadium in Darlington, County Durham, that hosted Darlington Football Club's home fixtures between 2003 and 2012. In December 2012, it was bought by Darlington Mowden Park Rugby Football Club.
Prior to moving to the ground in 2003, Darlington F.C. had been playing at Feethams, located near to the town centre. The current stadium was built on a greenfield site next to Darlington's A66 bypass. Upon completion the arena was originally called the Reynolds Arena, after the club's then owner, George Reynolds. After Reynolds' bankruptcy and arrest on charges of money laundering, the name was changed to The New Stadium in April 2004. Since then the club sold the naming rights for the stadium to various sponsors: Williamson Motors, 96.6 TFM, Balfour Webnet, and in 2009 The Northern Echo. The Arena consists of four equally sided stands. The West Stand, located behind the goal, was generally the more vocal of the two sides used by home supporters.
It was the largest Conference National venue with a capacity of 25,000,. Attendances for football matches were restricted to 10,000 by local planning regulations, because of poor access roads around the stadium, although the club was allowed to apply for an exception for special occasions.
A crowd of 11,600 watched the first game in the new stadium for a 2–0 defeat to Kidderminster Harriers. Since then, the ground averaged a gate of around 1,500 to 2,000 supporters, although certain fixtures such as derby match against local rivals Hartlepool United in March 2007 (10,121 spectators), pulled in a significantly larger turnout.
Attendances were particularly low in the 2009–10 season, when the club were relegated to the Football Conference for the second time in just over 20 years. Their average attendance for the season was the second lowest in the whole Football League at just under 2,000. Their highest crowd of the season was 2,744 and their lowest 1,296. They went into the 2010–11 season with the largest capacity ground ever seen in the Football Conference.
It was announced in May 2012 that Darlington would no longer play at the Darlington Arena. The club initially agreed a ground share deal with Shildon A.F.C., before deciding to share with Bishop Auckland F.C. instead.
Darlington planned to use the stadium for musical concerts to increase club revenue. Elton John was the first act to play at the stadium, on 5 July 2008, attracting a crowd of 17,000, but no further concerts took place. The Arena also played host to the first professional rugby league match to be played in County Durham, when the Gateshead Thunder used the ground for their fifth round 2009 Challenge Cup game against the Oldham Roughyeds due to a fixture clash.
- "Darlington". The Football League. Archived from the original on 23 March 2010.
- Ward Hadaway for Darlington Football Club (May 2007). "Planning Statement" (PDF). Darlington Borough Council. p. 18. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011.
- "Darlington 0–2 Kidderminster". BBC Sport. 15 August 2003. Retrieved 8 December 2012.
- "Darlington seal groundshare deal with Shildon AFC". BBC Sport. 8 May 2012. Retrieved 8 December 2012.
- Willis, Joe (30 May 2012). "Darlington to play at Bishop Auckland, not Shildon". The Northern Echo. Retrieved 8 December 2012.
- "Darlington Mowden Park: Rugby team buy The Arena". BBC SEport. 6 December 2012. Retrieved 8 December 2012.
- Arnold, Stuart (5 May 2012). "What next for the Darlington Arena?". Darlington and Stockton Times. Retrieved 9 December 2012.
- Wilson, Scott (9 May 2009). "Super League dream for Thunder supremo Findlay". The Northern Echo. Retrieved 9 December 2012.