Owlerton Stadium

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For Sheffield Wednesday F.C.'s home stadium, see Hillsborough Stadium.
Owlerton Stadium
Owlerton Stadium.jpg
Aerial view of Owlerton Stadium from Shirecliffe to the NE.
Full name Owlerton Stadium
Location Owlerton, Sheffield
Coordinates 53°24′23″N 1°29′33″W / 53.40639°N 1.49250°W / 53.40639; -1.49250Coordinates: 53°24′23″N 1°29′33″W / 53.40639°N 1.49250°W / 53.40639; -1.49250
Owner A&S Leisure Group
Capacity 4,000
Construction
Built 1929
Tenants

Owlerton Stadium, sometimes referred to as Sheffield Sports Stadium, is a greyhound racing track in Owlerton near Hillsborough in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England.[1] Greyhound Racing takes place on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday evenings and BAGS racing takes place on Monday afternoons and Thursday mornings. There is a modern glass-fronted Panorama Restaurant accommodating up to 300 people, executive suites, fast food facilities and a number of bars.

The stadium is also home to the Sheffield Tigers Speedway team and hosts BriSCA Formula One stock car racing events,.[2][3] Speedway takes place on a Thursday evening and the stadium has a total capacity for 4,000 spectators.[4]

It is operated by the A & S Leisure Group, the majority shareholder of which is Dave Allen. Allen was previously the chairman of football team Sheffield Wednesday who play at the nearby Hillsborough Stadium, which coincidentally was originally named Owlerton Stadium.

Greyhound Racing[edit]

Origins [5][edit]

The city famous for its steel was covered with steel works of various types and surrounding Owlerton was a steel forge directly on the north side, and a cutlery forge directly on the west side. Within a stone's throw to the south was the Birley Meadow steel forge and Owlerton Bridge Rolling Mills steel works. In fact the only area without steel works was the east side where allotments and gardens were to be found. The Penistone Road ran alongside the west and where Lowther Road originated it could take you directly to the stadium although today the main car park is on Livesey Street on the south side. With the Darnall Stadium opening in 1927 the Owlerton track lost the race to hold the first oval circuit greyhound racing in Sheffield. The actual construction of the new Owlerton stadium began in 1929 on a 20-acre freehold site but the public still had to wait until 12th January 1932 before an official opening took place in regards to greyhound racing. The venue was initially used for speedway only, with a first meeting held on 30th March 1929. The stands were subsequently altered to accommodate the impending greyhound racing.

Opening [6][edit]

The opening night attracted an eager crowd of 10,000 including many ladies who enjoyed the cosy seating in the newly built glass fronted grandstand. The press described the tote as a mechanical and electrical marvel as it registered bets within fractions of a second as they were placed. Seven races formed the racecard with many of the greyhounds already appearing in previously held trials. The first race over 525 yards the 'Oxford Stakes' was claimed by 3-1 shot 'Carbrook Ted' winning by two lengths in 33.63 secs. Adding variety to the meeting was a 700-yard race and a hurdle race. It is very interesting to note how inconsistent racing must have been if compared to modern races. The five 525 yard flat race winning times spanned 32.40 to 35.78 secs.

Pre-war history[7] [8][edit]

A third track arrived to the city of Sheffield in the form of Hyde Park which would always remain independent leaving Darnall and Owlerton to licensed racing. The owners of Owlerton, Sheffield Sports Stadium Ltd began to nurture the business and it soon grew into the primary track in Sheffield. The set-up of the track consisted of a 472 yards circumference with distances of 300, 500, 525 and 700 yards. The grandstand and club were situated on the home straight and there was a parade ring to be found behind these which allowed the public to view the greyhounds pre-race. The track had two hares, an 'Inside Sumner' and an 'Outside MS Cable'’. The racing kennels were next to the parade ring and there were another 120 resident kennels that replaced the kennels formerly located at Wardsend Farm in a range of stone buildings.

Sam Vintner joined the track in the thirties as Racing Manager and owner/breeder Alf Morton supplied the track with some excellent greyhounds using Irish Derby winner Marching Through Georgia as the sire. Morton was responsible for breeding Victor Ben Hur a track champion and record holder over both 500 & 700 yards in 1940. Duffys Arrival was once trained at the track before he went on to bigger and better things with Coventry trainer George McKay and two of the early trainers at the track were Harry Bidwell, who would have a thirty-year association with Owlerton, and Ted Brennan.

Post-war history [9][10][edit]

Trade during the war was exceptional but there was very little open racing due to travel issues and it was not until 1950 that Ted Brennan started to establish himself as one of the leading northern trainers and the track proved it had a strong kennel by claiming the 1951 News of the World Intertrack Championship, the greyhound racing equivalent of the F.A. Cup at the time. Ronald James 'Jim' Hookway became a resident trainer in 1953 and joined Brennan in dominating the northern scene. As the decade came to an end it was in 1959 that Ted Brennan’s brother Jim switched from the Darnall kennels to join Owlerton and a first Derby final appearance for the track arrived in the shape of Dancing Sheik trained by Ted Brennan.

The sixties saw rival track Darnall close its doors whilst it would also prove a pivotal time for Owlerton when the Sheffield Corporation took over the track after a £185,000 offer had been accepted. The corporation converted the three private clubs into public bars which helped boost attendance figures and in 1969 they made £30,000 improvements to the Lowther Road grandstand.

Hookway was rewarded with the title of Trainer of the Year which he shared with John Bassett in 1965. The feat had been helped considerably by a greyhound called Clonmannon Flash who had won the Scottish Greyhound Derby & Edinburgh Cup double. In February 1965 an Irish litter had been bred by Leo Stack, the Crazy Parachute – Supreme Witch bred litter included Tric-Trac, Spectre II, Forward King and Forward Flash. This litter made its way to Hookway and the Brennan brothers kennels and would arguably become one of the greatest litters of all time.

At White City on June 24th 1967 Tric-Trac defeated his brother Spectre II by one length in the 1967 English Greyhound Derby final. Hookway received the Trainer of the Year accolade for a second time. By 1970 Owlerton introduced the Steel City Cup to give the locals a taste of top open race action.

As the seventies progressed many of the old brigade retired starting with Sam Vintner the long serving Racing Manager in 1973 to be replaced by Terry Meynell. Ted Brennan finished the following year and his place was taken by Harry Crapper. Jim Brennan would join Leeds a few years later and Jim Hookway also retired after a very successful career. Sheffield replaced the grass circuit with an all-sand surface in 1978.

Troubles surfaced in the mid-eighties when an ageing stadium would become a problem in the near future, Terry Corden who held the lease at Derby Stadium added Sheffield to his portfolio by attaining the lease at the track but the Hillsborough disaster in April 1989 resulted in ramifications for the track. The Taylor Report and subsequent government actions on stadium safety meant a substantial financial boost was required at many stadia and as a result Corden let go of Derby and the local council closed Sheffield until the improvements were completed. Corden, General Manager Jon Carter and Racing Manager Jimmy Nunn could do nothing to keep the stadium open as it was forced to close for the first time since it had opened in 1932.

The next few years would bring a few trials and tribulations, first the stadium re-opened following some investment and David Gunson was brought in as Racing Manager but the track suffered a second closure in the spring of 1990 following a mistake with the betting licence. Some respite arrived when the track pulled off a coup recruiting Tennents into major sponsorship deals. Even with the extra sponsorship the track was still struggling until the moment in 1991 that A&S Leisure (owners of five casino restaurants) stepped in and purchased the track spending a staggering £3 million on refurbishment. The massive investment soon reaped rewards with crowds flooding back to watch the action. Dave Baldwin stepped in to take over from Dave Gunson and Barrie Draper became a major trainer.

Former Greyhound Racing Association manager John Gilburn soon stamped his mark on proceedings when he arrived as General Manager; he secured the prestigious trainers' championship for the first time in the track's history in 2009 and then again in 2014. Additionally a second home competition the Three Steps to Victory is rising in stature since its inception in 2003.

Competitions[edit]

Rugby League[edit]

The stadium hosted the Sheffield Eagles' first ever game in September 1984; they left five years later following changes to crowd rules, however they returned in 2014 after their previous home the Don Valley Stadium was demolished.


References[edit]

  1. ^ "Track Search". Greyhound Board of Great Britain. Retrieved 24 December 2011. 
  2. ^ Bamford, R & Jarvis J.(2001). Homes of British Speedway. ISBN 0-7524-2210-3
  3. ^ "About Owlerton Stadium Sheffield". Sheffield Sports Stadium Ltd. Archived from the original on 11 September 2007. Retrieved 3 January 2008. 
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ Genders, Roy (1981). The Encyclopedia of Greyhound Racing. Pelham Books Ltd. ISBN 07207-1106-1. 
  6. ^ Genders, Roy (1981). The Encyclopedia of Greyhound Racing. Pelham Books Ltd. ISBN 07207-1106-1. 
  7. ^ Genders, Roy (1990). NGRC book of Greyhound Racing. Pelham Books Ltd. ISBN 0-7207-1804-X. 
  8. ^ "Sheffield Owlerton" (PDF). Greyhound Racing History. 
  9. ^ Barnes, Julia (1991). Daily Mirror Greyhound Fact File. Ringpress Books. ISBN 0-948955-61-9. 
  10. ^ "Sheffield Owlerton" (PDF). Greyhound Racing History. 

External links[edit]