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Top Facts about Pride Park Stadium, Opened by the Queen Herself

Sun 23 January 2022 | 11:30

Here in top facts about Pride Park Stadium, we bring you information about the 33k-seater arena which has been home to Derby County Football Club for a long time now.

Pride Park Stadium is an all-seater football stadium in Derby, England, that serves as the home ground of Derby County in the English Football League. It is the 16th largest football ground in England and the 20th largest stadium in the United Kingdom, with a capacity of 33,597.

The stadium was developed as part of the commercial redevelopment of Pride Park, a business park on the outskirts of Derby city center, in the 1990s. Since it opened in 1997 as a replacement for their previous home, the Baseball Ground, Derby County has played there. Between 2013 and 2016, the venue was known as the iPro Stadium due to sponsorship.

Two full international matches, England vs. Mexico in 2001 and Brazil vs. Ukraine in 2010, as well as other England under-21 matches, have taken place at Pride Park. The 2009 FA Women's Cup Final was also held there.

Pride Park Stadium has hosted activities other than football, despite being predominantly a football arena. It welcomed Rod Stewart for the first time on June 26, 2005, while he was on tour for his Stardust: The Great American Songbook, Volume III album.

On the 5th of June 2006, the Red Hot Chili Peppers performed at the stadium as part of their Stadium Arcadium album tour. On the 28th and 29th of May 2011, Monster Jam visited Pride Park Stadium.

The highest attendance for a competitive Derby County match at Pride Park Stadium was 33,378 for a Premier League match versus Liverpool on March 18, 2000. On 1 May 2006, former players from both Derby County and Rangers competed in a testimonial match at Derby County's Pride Park Stadium, which gathered a record 33,475 spectators, with over 10,000 Rangers supporters.

Listing the Top Facts about Pride Park Stadium

We will be covering general information about the stadium, including its history, development throughout the years, the international games it has hosted and etc.

Pride Park Stadium History – The Beginning (1895 to 1995)

Derby County had been playing at the Baseball Ground since 1895 before transferring to the Pride Park Stadium.

One of the Top Facts about Pride Park Stadium is that the Taylor Report, implemented after the 1989 Hillsborough Disaster, saw the legal requirement for English football stadia to become all-seater by the 1994–95 season, resulting in the ground's capacity dwindling to just 17,500 by the mid-1990s, not enough for the then-ambitious second-tier club.

In February 1996, chairman Lionel Pickering decided to move the club to a new stadium, having originally planned to rebuild the Baseball Ground as a 26,000-seat stadium, due to an additional problem with the ground's wooden components (considered unacceptable in the aftermath of the Bradford City stadium fire in 1985).

The club had intended to construct a 30,000-seat stadium with 4,000 parking spaces, a restaurant and conference center, a fitness center, a supporters club, and a new training facility at Pride Park.

The stadium proposal was revised a year later to become part of a £46 million Stadivarios project that included a 10,000-seat indoor arena. 

However, Peter Gadsby, the club's associate director at the time and the head of the Miller Birch construction company, thought the project was too ambitious and costly, and instead, new Chairman Lionel Pickering came up with plans to modernize and expand the Baseball Ground to hold 26,000 people at a cost of £10 million.

Despite signing a construction agreement with Taylor Woodrow, Gadsby recommended that the club try again to secure the then-redeveloping Pride Park business park, settling with Derby City Council for a smaller site than previously promised.

Prior to a match against

Luton Town

at The Baseball Ground on February 21, 1996, the club informed supporters of its decision to move to a £16 million state-of-the-art stadium for the 1997–98 season.

The property was purchased for £1.8 million by Derby City Council, and each of the club's four directors - Lionel Pickering, Peter Gadsby, Stuart Webb, and John Kirkland – paid £2.5 million as part of a package agreement to pay for the stadium.

Another one of the Top Facts about Pride Park Stadium is that the stadium was modeled after Middlesbrough's Riverside Stadium, which opened in 1995 after more than 30 revisions to the initial plans.

After experimenting with the notion of calling the new stadium "The New Baseball Ground," the Pride Park Stadium was chosen as the club's new home.

Pride Park Stadium History – The Process of Making (1995 to 1997)

Derby's plans largely followed those of Middlesbrough (The Miller Partnership), with the first stage consisting of a detached main stand facing a horseshoe running unbroken around the other three sides, with the option of the corners being filled in later and the ground's capacity being expanded if and when necessary by raising the horseshoe roof.

Pickering set the foundation stone in November 1995, and the first of almost 1,000 pre-cast concrete piles were put in September 1996 after decontamination.

As the ground began to take shape, 6,500 tonnes of concrete and more than 2,100 tonnes of steelwork were added.

To capitalize on the hype among fans, the club established a visitors center, which included a computer-generated tour of the stadium as it took shape and received over 75,000 visitors.

One of the

Top Facts about Pride Park Stadium

is that supporters could also purchase special bricks, which they could engrave with a message of their choice and which would be placed around the outside of the completed stadium.

The winter of 1996 was not kind to the contractors, but the news that the stadium would be opened by the Queen added to the pressure, another one of the Top Facts about Pride Park Stadium.

This announcement, which marked the first time the Queen had opened a new football stadium, meant that the workers, who were behind schedule at the moment, had to pull out all the stops to finish the stadium on time.

The pitch was 105 meters (344 feet) long and 68 meters (223 feet) wide, meeting international standards, and was five yards (4.6 m) longer and four yards (3.7 m) wider than the pitch at the Baseball Ground. A three-meter (9.8-foot) grass margin was also included.

Pride Park Stadium History – The Grand Opening

The stadium was officially opened by the Queen on July 18, 1997, in front of 30,000 spectators. The southwest corner, which is situated between the main stand and the horseshoe, was finished by this time.

The level of interest from possible corporate clients was so strong that Pickering persuaded the board to go all out with the stadium, bringing the total initial expenses to £22 million, one of the Top Facts about Pride Park Stadium.

On the first day, work was still going on on the last corner, prompting Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, to joke with Taylor Woodrow contract manager Ross Walters, "Haven't you been paid yet?"

Two weeks later, on 4 August 1997, the first-ever game at Pride Park Stadium was played against Italian team Sampdoria, finishing in a 1–0 defeat with Vincenzo Montella scoring the game's lone goal.

The 29,041 fans in attendance were the most for a

Derby County

home game in 20 years. The match began a tradition of pre-season friendly against European teams at the stadium, with

Barcelona

(twice), CSKA Moscow, Athletic Bilbao, Lazio, Ajax, and Mallorca all making appearances within the next six years.

The first competitive match in the new stadium took place on August 30, 1997, and concluded in a 1–0 triumph in front of 27,232 fans, with Stefano Eranio scoring the game's only goal from the penalty spot.

After the floodlights went out in the 11th minute of the second half, the stadium's inaugural competitive match versus

Wimbledon

was called off with the score at 2–1.

After a more than half-hour delay, referee Uriah Rennie called the game off while engineers attempted unsuccessfully to restart two failed generators, another one of the

Top Facts about Pride Park Stadium.

According to Gadsby, "We had 11 maintenance people on duty including six electricians but nobody has yet worked out why both generators failed.

There was a bang of such strength that it fused them both." This turned out to be the only major flaw with the new stadium, which delivered on all of its promises and went on to receive international acclaim.

Later modifications to the stadium increased the seating capacity to 33,597 people at a cost of £28 million.

The Renovation of Pride Plaza

During the 2006–07 season, when Derby won promotion to the Premier League for the first time in five years, the club announced plans for a £20 million development of the area surrounding the stadium, which would include the construction of a 165-bed hotel, bars, restaurants, and office space to serve employers on the Pride Park business park.

Three squares would be named after iconic personalities linked with the club, including all-time leading striker Steve Bloomer, best manager Brian Clough, and previous chairman Lionel Pickering, who died in 2006.

The club stated that no funds from the team would be used to pay for the development. Derby City Council voted to proceed with the plans on November 9, 2007.

Following the team's elevation to the

Premier League

in 2006–07, the club announced plans to increase the stadium's capacity to 44,000 for the start of the 2008–09 season, assuming the club's survival.

The proposals were for adding rows of seats to the north, south, and east stands, allowing the team to break its current attendance record.

The club, however, was unable to preserve its top-flight status, and when it was sold to new American ownership, General Sports and Entertainment, in January 2008, both the plaza and ground extension plans were abandoned, another one of the Top Facts about Pride Park Stadium.

A nine-foot-high bronze monument of Brian Clough and Peter Taylor, the club's managers from 1967 to 1973, was commissioned in 2008 to decorate the northwest section of the ground, which was dubbed Unity Plaza.

Andrew Edwards created the statue, which depicts Clough and Taylor with the League Championship trophy that they won with the team in 1972. On August 27, 2010, it was unveiled.

Pride Park Stadium Hosting 2018 World Cup

When Derby County announced its intention to apply to be one of the host cities as part of England's bid for the 2018 World Cup Finals in 2009, Pride Park was earmarked as a possible FIFA World Cup venue, with Derby chief executive Tom Glick saying:

"What we (the board) know is that Derby already has the core elements to be a host city ... We are going to find out what the requirements are, but we are certainly expecting that the requirement would be at least 40,000 seats. The ability to do that at Pride Park Stadium exists, the land exists. So we know that if we were successful, that is something that could be done."

The stadium needed to be enlarged to at least 40,000 capacity to qualify as a host stadium, and the club offered three options for doing so, two of which would need the stadium to be permanently expanded.

Option A would see temporary stands created behind each goal, with the current roof removed and supported by steel structures, with all of the stands removed after the World Cup and the original roofing replaced.

Option B would also include the construction of temporary seating in the north and south stands, as well as an extra building on the east stand that the club could keep, bringing the total capacity to 39,000.

Option C would remove seating from the north, south, and east stands and replace them with three new 20-row decks in each. This time, there was also the option of keeping the east stand expansion, bringing the total stadium capacity to 37,000. 

"We'd like to meet the World Cup standards for matches when it comes to expansion but then perhaps scale down the stadium to something closer to where we are right now. That way, we can keep the intimacy and special atmosphere that has almost become a hallmark of going to a Derby County match.

When the team play at home, having a full stadium is a huge advantage because it creates a brilliant atmosphere. What we wouldn't want to do is have a stadium that all of a sudden was too big after the World Cup had gone," the club remarked, preferring temporary expansion over permanent expansion.

Having a packed stadium when the team plays at home is a significant advantage since it creates a fantastic atmosphere. We don't want to end up with a stadium that is suddenly too huge when the World Cup is over.

One of the Top Facts about Pride Park Stadium is that Derby's request was denied by the FA on December 16, 2009, along with Hull's and Leicester's, to local rival

Nottingham Forest

's offer.

Tom Glick later commented, "We're all greatly disappointed. Thousands of hours of hard work has been put in across the city from a number of agencies. We need to get some feedback as to why the bid was not successful."

The club was later unsuccessful in their bid to be the Midlands football site for the 2012 Summer Olympics, losing out to Coventry City's Ricoh Arena, with the selection committee citing the fact that the stadium"has fewer dressing rooms and no hotel" than the Coventry-based stadium, another one of the Top Facts about Pride Park Stadium.

Pride Park Stadium Hosting Significant Non-Derby County Games

Pride Park, as one of the largest football grounds in the Midlands, has hosted a number of significant matches that are not related to Derby County.

When the national team toured the country during the construction of the new Wembley Stadium, Pride Park hosted one complete

England

international, a 4–0 friendly triumph over Mexico on May 25, 2001.

The match also holds the record for the largest crowd at the stadium, with 33,597 people in attendance, one of the

Top Facts about Pride Park Stadium.

Pride Park was chosen as a host venue as part of England's bid to host the 2013 European U21s Championship, partly as a result of Derby's successful hosting of international U21 football.

Aside from England, the stadium hosted a friendly match between Brazil and Ukraine on October 11, 2010.

Brazil won the match 2–0 in front of a crowd of 13,088 live spectators and TV viewers from over 100 nations, with goals by

Dani Alves

and Alexandre Pato. 

Despite the fact that Brazil's coach, Mano Menezes, criticized the low turnout ( "I expected more fans but I think it was a good game"), Derby chief executive Tom Glick was delighted with the attendance, adding, "I think everybody was hoping that we'd have a sold-out crowd of over 30,000 but, realistically, time was working against us.

We only had 13 days to sell the tickets and a big crowd just wasn't on the cards. But I think we've proven that we can turn it around, operationally.

The promoter, Kentaro, has seen that. So we have done ourselves a favor in terms of bringing something else like this back again and we will continue to pursue things like this."

Away from international football, Pride Park hosted the 39th FA Women's Cup Final on 4 May 2009, with Arsenal defeating Sunderland 2–1 to win the cup for a record fourth consecutive time in front of 23,291 fans.

Pride Park Stadium Legal Issues

The club's eventual relegation from the top flight in 2002 saw it enter financial crisis, and it was briefly placed into receivership by The Co-operative Bank, who immediately installed a new board composed of John Sleightholme, Jeremy Keith, and Steve Harding, for the sake of the club's development.

The club's financial situation deteriorated as the debt grew to £30 million or more, prompting an unpopular refinancing scheme that saw the stadium sold to the "mysterious" Panama-based ABC Corporation in exchange for a £1 million annual rent, which local journalist Gerald Mortimer described as "an affront... to those who put everything into building the ground."

The ownership trio of Sleightholme, Keith, and Harding was dubbed "The Three Amigos" by the local press, and after coming under growing criticism from the Derby true believers in the form of two separate supporters groups, the RamsTrust and the Rams Protest Group (RPG).

 They eventually sold out to a group of local businessmen led by former board member Peter Gadsby, dubbed "The League of Gentlemen" by the local press, in April 2006. Pride Park was returned to the club by the Gadsby-led group.

Murdo Mackay, Jeremy Keith, and finance director Andrew McKenzie were accused and sentenced to a total of seven and a half years in prison three years later for receiving a covert commission of £440,625 from the club. The team owed £15 million on the Pride Park Stadium mortgage as of August 2009, which was later confirmed to be due to be paid off in 2016.

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source: SportMob

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