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The Home of Derby County

Perhaps the biggest decision any Derby County Board of Directors has ever made in the history of the club, apart from letting Brian Clough leave, is to relocate to Pride Park . Not only did it change the fortunes of an area of railway sidings and council refuse tip but it turned Derby County into a proper “big club”. You see most supporters think thieir club is big because they won the Mickey Mouse cup in 18 something or other, but to be a big club you need to have tradition, a big fan base and a big stadium. Derby County now had the lot.

The old Baseball Ground was one of the best places to watch and play football. The closeness of the spectators to the pitch and the high stands held in the noise of a full house and as a young boy I remember hearing the roar of the crowd several miles away. My very first game was the actually the last game of the 1968/69 second division championship winning season. We were playing Bristol City and won, I think 5-0. Zigga Zagga scored a hat trick. This was pre Ley stand and the floodlights were positioned on top of the Normanton and Osmaston stands. The early 70's were heady days. two championships, european football and an FA Cup semi final. But don't forget the pitch. It started the decade as a bog and ended it as a beach.

The Taylor Report into the Hillsborough disaster of 1989, in which 96 people died, sent shockwaves throughout football with a recommendation that clubs in the English and Scottish Premiership and the English First Division should be all-seater by the 1994-95 season. With the added problems of wooden structures at the Baseball Ground, which were considered unacceptable after the Bradford City fire in 1985 in which 56 people died, the Rams board made the historic decision to move. On February 21, 1996, the historic decision of plans for a £16m state-of-the-art stadium were announced to fans watching a game against Luton.

What had been a wasteland 46 weeks earlier had been transformed into a super stadium for the Queen to officially open on July 18, 1997. Fortunately the builders were not Australian and the Queen performed a ceremony to open her first football stadium.

I was delighted to transfer my season ticket from the Baseball Ground to Pride Park and maintained it up until the then owners known dis affectionately as “the three amigos” showed their true colours. This is my first time back this season mainly due to work commitments and we were made very welcome by the DCFC staff. In particular our thanks go to Chris in the press office for all his help in assisting our filming.

On the back of Pride Park Stadium the whole area of Pride Park is now developed and as Lionel Pickering was once quoted as saying "I still get a buzz when I arrive for a home game - it's a dramatic sight, a true county landmark." So much so I went and bought a ticket for the Boxing Day game against Wolves. At least that's something to look forward to at Christmas.

Facts and figures
More than 1,000 pre-cast concrete piles were sunk into Pride Park to start the work on the new stadium. This was followed by 6,500 tonnes of concrete and more than 2,100 tonnes of steelwork. The final cost for the stadium, which includes later additions, now stands at around £28m. Instead of the original 30,000 seats, it now has 33,597. "Although there are no immediate plans for further development, the shape and format of the stadium means that it can be extended to take up to 40,000 people," said spokesman Damon Parkin. Club chairman Lionel Pickering took a mahogany bar and mirrors from the old Baseball Hotel in Shaftesbury Crescent before it was demolished to incorporate into the Baseball Bar and Grill at the new stadium. The pitch at Pride Park is five yards longer and four yards wider than that at the old Baseball Ground and has a three-metre grass margin. At 105 metres long and 68 metres wide it meets with standards for international venues. It has hosted three under-21 internationals and an international friendly. Mowing the pitch one way is a seven-and-a-half mile route. Cutting it both ways and marking it out for a match is a 19-mile trip. There are 26 miles of undersoil heating.

Chris Sabian, Peak District View - 2007-08-29 13:02:12

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