The Darlington Arena

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The Northern Echo Arena
Darlington arena 003.jpg
The arena as pictured in 2009
Location Darlington, England
Owner Darlington Mowden Park R.F.C.
Capacity 25,000[1](restricted to 10,000 by local planning regulations)[2]
Field size 110 by 74 yards (101 m × 68 m)
Surface Grass
Opened 2003
Tenants
Darlington F.C. (2003–2012)
Darlington Mowden Park R.F.C. (2012–)

The Northern Echo Arena is a rugby union and former football stadium, located in Darlington, County Durham.

The arena was opened in the summer of 2003, as the new home ground of Darlington F.C., following the decision to leave their previous ground, Feethams, after the 2002–03 season. With a seating capacity of 25,000, the arena rarely attracted large audiences, with the usual attendance being around 2,000. The cost of the arena cost the club to go into administration three times. Eventually, the club decided to leave the arena after nine years following the 2011–12 season.

In December 2012, after rumours that the arena could be closed down and be replaced with different reported purposes, rugby union team, Darlington Mowden Park RFC purchased the arena for £2 million; the owner of the club later stated that he believed that the arena could lead to much more success for the club.[3]

Tenants[edit]

2003–2012: Darlington FC[edit]

Ground showing the words "Come on Darlo"
The stadium in April 2009

Beginnings[edit]

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.

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.

A crowd of 11,600 watched the first game in the new stadium for a 2–0 defeat to Kidderminster Harriers.[4] 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.[citation needed]

Name sponsorship[edit]

The club has sold the naming rights for the stadium to various sponsors: Williamson Motors, 96.6 TFM, Balfour Webnet, and in 2009 The Northern Echo; since Darlington Mowden Park RFC have used the arena, it has been named The Northern Echo Arena, rather than the previous name The Northern Echo Darlington Arena.

Final years[edit]

It was the largest Conference National venue with a capacity of 25,000.[1] Attendances for football matches were restricted to 10,000 by local planning regulations,[2] because of poor access roads around the stadium, although the club was allowed to apply for an exception for special occasions.

It was announced in May 2012 that Darlington would no longer play at the Darlington Arena, with the club later folding and being replaced by a new club – Darlington 1883. The club initially agreed a ground share deal with Shildon A.F.C.,[5] before deciding to share with Bishop Auckland F.C. instead.[6]

2012–: Darlington Mowden Park RFC[edit]

Following the announcement that Darlington F.C. would no longer play at the arena, it was reported that the arena may be closed down and be replaced by a housing estate.[7] In December 2012, Darlington Mowden Park R.F.C. bought the arena for £2 million, as well as 17 acres (6.9 ha) of adjoining land, with the intention of developing a multi-sports facility; the club owner stated that he hoped that playing at the arena would improve Mowden Park's performances.[3] This would be proved to be true, as they were promoted to National League 1, the third tier of English rugby, beginning in the 2014–15 season.[8]

The club played their first game at the arena on 2 February 2013, in front of a crowd of over 1,000 spectators, defeating Bromsgrove 62–7 in a National League 2 North league game.[9] Regular attendances would bring in around 700–1,300 spectators.

Other uses[edit]

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.[7] The Arena also played host to the first professional rugby league match to be played in County Durham, when Gateshead Thunder used the ground for their fifth round 2009 Challenge Cup game against Oldham due to a fixture clash.[10]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Darlington". The Football League. Archived from the original on 23 March 2010. 
  2. ^ a b Ward Hadaway for Darlington Football Club (May 2007). "Planning Statement" (PDF). Darlington Borough Council. p. 18. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-09-28. 
  3. ^ a b "Darlington Mowden Park: Rugby team buy The Arena". BBC SEport. 6 December 2012. Retrieved 8 December 2012. 
  4. ^ "Darlington 0–2 Kidderminster". BBC Sport. 15 August 2003. Retrieved 8 December 2012. 
  5. ^ "Darlington seal groundshare deal with Shildon AFC". BBC Sport. 8 May 2012. Retrieved 8 December 2012. 
  6. ^ Willis, Joe (30 May 2012). "Darlington to play at Bishop Auckland, not Shildon". The Northern Echo. Retrieved 8 December 2012. 
  7. ^ a b Arnold, Stuart (5 May 2012). "What next for the Darlington Arena?". Darlington and Stockton Times. Retrieved 9 December 2012. 
  8. ^ Craggs, Andy (3 May 2014). "DMPRFC 30 – Ampthill RFC 28". DMP. Retrieved 9 May 2014. 
  9. ^ "Darlington Mowden Park make dream start at Northern Echo Arena". The Northern Echo. 2 February 2013. 
  10. ^ Wilson, Scott (9 May 2009). "Super League dream for Thunder supremo Findlay". The Northern Echo. Retrieved 9 December 2012. 

External links[edit]

The Darlington Arena at Football Ground Map

Coordinates: 54°30′30.33″N 1°32′3.82″W / 54.5084250°N 1.5343944°W / 54.5084250; -1.5343944