Friday, December 25, 2009
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Queens Park Rangers (Part 3)
11/12/2004: Queens Park Rangers 2 Ipswich Town 4 (Coca-Cola Championship)
If any side should have the name Wanderers, it is Queens Park Rangers, who at twelve have had more home grounds than any other League club. Many of these have since been covered over by housing, or in the case of two grounds at Park Royal, by industrial units, making it almost impossible to find any trace of them today. But with the help of two books, Football Grounds of London by Alex White & Bob Lilliman and The Football Grounds of Great Britain by Simon Inglis, I’ve managed to put together this handy map that shows, with varying degrees of accuracy, the location of most of them...
View The various homes of QPR in a larger map
Of all the grounds they have played at it is the two in Park Royal, the Royal Agricultural Society's ground and Park Royal Stadium that intrigue me the most.
Rangers moved to the RAS ground in 1904 after their landlord at the Kensal Rise Athletic Ground attempted to double their rent. The RAS site, two miles south of what is now Wembley Stadium, was spread out across a hundred acres of land between the Grand Union Canal and the Great Western Railway. Within the site was an oval shaped arena, reputed to have a capacity of 40,000, and it was here that QPR played their home games for the next three years, albeit some distance from their fan base. In 1907 the heavily indebt RAS were forced into selling the site and Rangers were on the move again, but this time just a few hundred yards south to the newly opened Park Royal Stadium.
An almost exact copy of Archibald Leitch's Ayresome Park in Middlesborough, Park Royal Stadium was built my the Great Western Railway Company. The stadium held 60,000, with cover for 9,000 and 4,000 seats on one side where there was a barrel-roofed stand with a trademark Leitch arched gable. The remaining three sides were uncovered terracing. Why did the Great Western Railway Company decided to build a stadium. It certainly wasn’t purpose built for QPR? Had the Great War not intervened it may well have become one of the leading sports venues in the capital - it was certainly the largest at the time – and Rangers may well have continued to play at ground where they’d enjoyed a period of relative success winning the Southern League in 1908 and 1912.
However, Rangers were evicted from Park Royal in early 1915 when the ground was requisitioned by the Army forcing the R’s to complete their fixtures at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge and back at their old stomping ground in Kensal Rise. The newly formed Park Royal FC used Park Royal Stadium between the two wars - minus most of the barrel-roofed stand that QPR took with them to Loftus Road - but the place has since disappeared under industrial development.
Fast forward 89 years and the pictures here of Loftus Road, where QPR finally settled, were taken in December 2004 when Ipswich came from behind to record a memorable 4-2 victory. Darren Currie, nephew of former Rangers midfielder Tony Currie, was making his debut for Town that day and marked the occasion with a goal, a fierce drive from outside the box. Currie, at the time, was reportedly the most tattooed footballer in the game, and in this interview with FourFourTwo magazine he talks about his not so secret vice.
A few more pictures here.
Friday, December 18, 2009
Olympic fever grips Ipswich!
Many towns within sensible travelling distance of the 2012 Olympic Stadium and other venues are, I’m sure, readying themselves for an influx of athletes and fans to the XXX Olympiad. Ipswich is no different although the investment being made within the confines of the town is perhaps just a bit more that elsewhere. Within a few hundred yards of where I sit (above) a project costing around the £47m mark will kick-off next year.
This will see the construction of a railway viaduct to link freight traffic from the Port of Felixstowe with the line out of Ipswich to the East Midlands thus allowing belching diesels, that would otherwise chug there way through Stratford, East London, to avoid the area completely. The scheme has been on the back burner for close to a decade but has taken on a new urgency with the games just 900 odd days away. Can’t have noisy locomotives spoiling things for all the VIPS and dignitaries in the Olympic Stadium can we.
The Brazilian gymnastics team look set to be based in Ipswich and their U-23 footballing counterparts may well join them ahead of the London Games. The former plan to use various facilities around the town (they did so recently during the World Championships which were held at the O2 Arena) while the latter may well use the ITFC training centre and possibly hold warm up games at Portman Road.
Monday, December 14, 2009
Sprint Center, Kansas City, Missouri
Swinging the lead: Day 4
You’ll be pleased to hear that I am over the worst of my cold and that I should be returning to work tomorrow. With that in mind here is the last offering from my daughter’s Architectural book and journal collection - my companion during my period of confinement - and it’s another indoor stadium (and yet another HOK Sports project), the Sprint Centre in downtown Kansas City, Missouri.
If you’ve watched the movie ‘Field of Dreams’, starring Kevin Costner, you’ll be familiar with the concept of "build it and they will come", which I mention here as it was this very concept that saw the civic leaders of Kansas City bankroll the construction of the Sprint Centre, in the hope of attracting a National Basketball Association (NBA) or National Hockey League (NHL) franchise to the state of Missouri’s largest city.
Confusingly, at least to me when changing planes there on a number of occasions en-route to Arkansas where I lived for four or five months back in the early 80’s, there are two Kansas City’s, one on each side of the Missouri River. The smallest of the two is in the State of Kansas, and the larger one in the State of Missouri, or as Dorothy would say “This isn’t Kansas anymore Toto”. The population of the two is well in excess of two million. But I digress.
With seating for 19,000 and at a cost of $276 million the arena opened in October 2007 and while it is yet to attract a major sports franchise the fledgling Kansas City Brigade of the Arena Football League, an indoor version of American football, did take up residence last year. Assorted college basketball games have also been played under it’s roof and a multitude of musicians and bands have also perfomed there, including Elton John, Ozzy Osbourne, The Police and Coldplay.
One thing that I’ve marvelled at while reading through my daughter’s library is the language used by architects, and their ilk, to describe new buildings, and the blurb that describes the Sprint Centre is no different:
“The elliptical arena is clad in a crystalline glass curtain wall. Interior features include clerestory windows that crown the seating bowl with natural light, alleviating the claustrophobic feel that is typical of large arenas. The primary entrance to the complex is through a low-slung masonry volume that contrasts starkly with the sleek curve of the arena itself. At night, the illuminated interior concourse will reveal the arena's users to the adjacent street in an ever-changing act of street theatre”.
Marvellous. I wish I could write stuff like that.
Basically, the exterior of the elliptical arena is clad in 139,932 square feet of insulated glass the upper sections of which allow sunlight into the seating area and arena floor below and also give those on the inside a 360 degree view of the entire downtown Kansas City area. The main entrance to the arena is through a three-storey aluminium clad entry hall which houses, amongst other things, the College Basketball Hall of Fame. The interior concourse is huge, the seating area impressively decked out in brooding black, and the main scoreboard, which hangs above the playing area, and comprises 16 LED screens, deserves a mention too. No excuse for not keeping up with the score.
Friday, December 11, 2009
Land Shark Stadium, Miami Gardens, Florida
Swinging the lead: Day 3
In it’s twenty-two year history the Land Shark Stadium has been known variously as the Joe Robbie Stadium, Pro Player Park, Pro Player Stadium, Dolphins Stadium and, dropping the ‘s’, the Dolphin Stadium. This is another Populous (formerly HOK Sport) build but in two distinct phases. Home of the Miami Dolphins (American Football) and the Florida Marlins (Baseball) the stadium was first opened in 1987 and its two tiers have a capacity of around 80,000.
A simple rectangular design it was ideal for watching gridiron but its exterior was bland and utilitarian. Interestingly the stadium was the first American football stadium to be built entirely through private funding and Joe Robbie, after whom the stadium was originally named and who led the campaign to raise the capital, insisted on a wider field than was usual for a American football stadium so it could accommodate soccer matches and serve as home for a possible expansion baseball franchise. The latter came to pass in 1993 when the Marlins came into being but no professional soccer side has as yet played there.
By 2007 a half billion dollars had been spent on refurbishments. Two spiral pedestrian ramps were added in each corner of the stadium, and behind the stands on the north and south touchlines curved glass extension (designed by Populous) containing concessions, restaurants, and meeting areas were bolted on. According to the architectural blurb I’ve been reading, “the bulging midsections mimic the hulls of the cruise ships critical to South Florida's tourist-driven economy”. On the roof top area canopies protect fans from the elements (as they tuck into nosh ranging from Dolphin Hot Dogs to Cuban Sandwichesto fresh salad wraps) although the seating areas remain exposed.
It remains one of the last stadiums in the US to be built for a joint American football and baseball use. The Florida rainfall which occurs mainly during summer and early autumn, i.e. most of the baseball season, is a major factor in limiting the average attendance for Marlin games, and there are plans afoot for the team to move to a purpose built stadium within Miami’s City Limits. The Dolphins will therefore return to a status of sole tenants of the Land Shark Stadium in 2011.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Nationals Park, Washington DC
Swinging the lead: Day 2 Part 2
A change of continent, and a change of sport, as we head across to Nationals Park a baseball stadium in Washington DC. Architects Populous (formerly HOK Sport) boast a portfolio bursting at the seems with completed stadiums and sports related building projects including the Sir Bobby Robson Stand at Ipswich Town’s Portman Road were I watch most of my footie from these days. It’s fair to say that Populous dominate the market in the US, and the completion of Nationals Park in 2008 meant that they had built 10 of Major League Baseballs last 14 stadiums. Since then the number has changed to 16 out of 19.
A number of their previous baseball stadium designs (Baltimore's Camden Yards and Denver's Coors Field) were built with a retro feel to them clad as they are in red brick, but with Nationals Park they went for a steel structure covered with a combination of white pre-cast concrete and glass. The idea being to ‘evoke’ the famous civic monuments in the US capital, indeed the White House is visible from the upper of the stadiums two decks.
Built for a staggering $611 million (all from the public purse) the ballpark seats just a few spectators shy of 42,000 and saw its first official game on March 30th last year when the Washington Nationals took on the Atlanta Braves with President George W. Bush throwing out the first ball. Pope Benedict XVI was there just over a fortnight later to hold a mass for a congregation of 46,000.
There are amenities and luxuries aplenty, as you would expect in a US Stadium, including 1,800 padded luxury seats directly behind home plate, 2,500 club seats, 1,112 suite seats and a 500-seat founder's club. The array of food on offer at concessions around the stadium is mind boggling (check here for the full list). I’d probably go for the Chesapeake Burger topped w/Crabmeat Platter and a side order of fries, followed by a Soft Serve Helmet Sundae topped with Hot Fudge, Strawberries and Chopped Peanuts Sprinkles washed down with a soda of some description (extra large obviously).
San Nicola Stadium, Bari
Swinging the lead: Day 2 Part 1
No sign of a quick recovery from my heavy cold so expect more stadium titbits from my daughter’s Architectural book and journal collection as my reading continues apace. Today’s first offering is from a hefty tome entitled the The 1996 Jerusalem Seminar in Architecture, in which the design of the San Nicola Stadium, Bari home of Italian Seria A side AS Bari is discussed.
Mimicking the nearby 13th-Century Castel del Monte a huge man made hill was built and the stadium placed on top of it. Castel del Monte or, translated from the Italian, the Castle on the Mount, is a strange looking affair octagonal in shape with octagonal bastions in each of its corners. Each floor has eight rooms and an eight-sided courtyard occupies its centre. The number eight was clearly of some significance to Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II who built it. The modern day architects were asked to build the stadium in like fashion, similarly raised up on an earthwork.
Built for the 1990 World Cup the most prominent feature of the stadium are it twenty-six ‘petals’ - representing a flower carefully laid down on the surrounding plains - that form the upper tier. Each of the petals has seating for two-thousand spectators, and combined with the seating in the lower tier, gives a total capacity of 58,000. The eight metre gaps between each of the petals serve two purposes. The first is to allow natural ventilation through out the stadium and the second is for security, the architects assuming that groups of two-thousand people are easy to control. This overlooks the possibility of trouble on the main tier were separation is by means of fence only! Anyway, it looks pretty cool. The petals, together with the lower bowl, are built almost entirely from concrete, mostly prefabricated, and are topped off with a light steel frame that supports the stadiums Teflon sunshade.The San Nicola Stadium hosted three Italia ’90 World Cup group games and the third-place play-off between the host nation and Bobby Robson’s England. The great mans last game in charge of the Three Lions.
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
Stadio Artemio Franchi, Florence
Swinging the lead: Day 1 Part 2
Italian Pier Luigi Nervi specialized in reinforced concrete and became architect, engineer and, finding no one willing to build for him, building contractor. He developed building techniques previously undreamt of and demanded a standard of workmanship in the finest Italian traditions. In an illustrious career spanning sixty years he would design and construct some quite remarkable buildings but it was in Florence in 1931 that he first found architectural acclaim, with the completion of the (now) 47,000 capacity communal Stadio Artemio Franchi.
“With a reinforced shell roof supported by dramatically cantilevered beams that fork at their base,” says Richard Weston in Key Buildings of the Twentieth Century (a gift to daughter a year or two ago), the stadium “had a startling grace and clarity, while the statically indeterminate helicoidal spiral stairs were like abstract sculptures”. Indeed. One of those spiral stairways can be seen in the last of the three pictures shown here. Just behind the old geezer on roller-skates. The entire stadium is built of Nervi’s favoured concrete including the 230-foot “Tower of Marathon” that sits to the rear of the stand on the eastern touchline.
The stadium immediately became the home of Italian Sere A side Fiorentina or the Viola as they known after their distinctive purple kit. Only four clubs have played in more Serie A seasons than Fiorentina who have enjoyed comparative success since taking up residence at the Stadio Artemio Franchi. Two league titles, six Italian Cup wins, one UEFA Cup and a European Cup final appearance is a pretty decent haul for the side from Florence. One of twelve venues for the Italia ’90 World Cup it hosted three group games, and one of the worst ever matches that I’ve had the misfortune to sit through, the quarter final between Yugoslavia and Argentine that the later won on penalties after a goalless 120 minutes.
Palazzettoo dello Sport, Rome
Swinging the lead: Day 1 Part 1
When my daughter finished Uni she dumped all of her study materials in her old bedroom at Chez Extreme Groundhopping. These are mostly books on or about Architecture (her chosen career which I may have gone on about before). Having contracted a rather nasty cold that looks like keeping me off work for a few days I’ve decided to have a good look through them and the accompanying pile of architectural journals. I don’t have to move far to get to them as Mrs Extreme Groundhopping has banished me to my daughters old room until such time that I stop wheezing, coughing, sneezing and filling the bin with used Kleenex every hour or so. Anyway, cutting to the chase, I’ve already uncovered a few articles on the design and construction of a number of sporting venues around the world details of which I will be sharing with you over the course of the coming week. Exciting hey? So here we go with number one the Palazettozo dello Sport in Rome, designed by architect Pier Luigi Nervi for the 1960 Summer Olympics...
Nervi had first attracted international attention following the completion of the Stadio Artemio Franchi, Florence in 1932 (more on that in a later post), and a quarter of a century on was charged with the design of three arenas for the Games of the XVII Olympiad. A modest arena with just 3,500 seats it was his design for the dome of the Palazzettoo dello Sport that attracted most interest. Constructed of prefabricated reinforced concrete supported by loading bearing flying buttresses the whole building was erected in just forty days. On the inside the dome has a white finished ribbed ceiling which, if the photos are anything to go by, gives the place a rather elegant look. Between the dome and the main seating area is a continuous stretch of glass that runs around the whole stadium. All rather nice.
The Palazettozo del Sport, which hosted boxing matches during the Rome games, was the home of the Pallacanestro Virtus Roma basketball team from 1960 until the early 1980’s. The basketball team then moved to another of Nervi’s Olympic arena’s, the similarly sounding but much larger Palazzo dello Sport, returning to their old home during renovations to the Palazzo dello Sport at the beginning of the new millennium. Following on from his Olympic success Pier Luigi Nervi busied himself with a multitude of other distinctive looking and varied use buildings including the Paul VI Audience Hall in Vatican City, the Australian Embassy in Paris and the George Washington Bridge Bus Terminal, New York City. He passed away in 1979.
Friday, December 04, 2009
Queens Park Rangers (Part 2)
13-07-2002: Queens Park Rangers 3 Glasgow Celtic 7
I worked a mile or so away from Loftus Road for around eight years and as a consequence watched quite a number of games at the compact stadium including a pre-season friendly between the R’s and Celtic in 2002. At or near capacity, three quarters of the ground (South Africa Road, School End and Ellerslie Road Stands) were taken over by the visiting support, with a thousand or so home fans huddled together in the Loft watching their team get a good spanking.
I guess this is what is must be like for fans of Scottish club’s most weekends when one of the Old Firm teams invade their little corner of the SPL.
Pubs in an around Shepherds Bush were doing a roaring trade and it seemed like every other person was decked out in green and white hoops. These pictures were taken by a Celtic supporting former work mate of mine with her mini match boxed sized digital camera.
(sorry about the picture quality which is reminiscent of the early days of Channel Five)
Thursday, December 03, 2009
I can’t say that I’m a big fan of the Olympics – in fact I doubt that I watched anymore than 30 minutes of coverage from Beijing last year – but I have signed up to receive news updates from the London Olympic committee via email, and next year, when they start taking applications for volunteers to work at the games in 2012, I’ll be putting my name forward. The idea of lurking around a major sporting event for a couple of weeks too big an opportunity to miss.
The latest news update (December 3rd) informed recipients that there are just 1,000 days to go until the Paralympics kick-off and contained a run down of some of the sports unique to athletes with physical and visual disabilities. The one that caught my eye was Goalball a sport for those with sight impairments that first made its debut at the games way back in 1976 at the XXI Olympiad in Toronto.
Unlike other sports, spectators must remain silent while that ball is in play so that the players (each team has three) can hear the bells that are imbedded with in it. Played on an area the size of a volleyball court the object of the game is to score goals by rolling the ball into your opponents net while they attempt to keep it out by blocking it with any part of their bodies. Games last 20 minutes with golden goals and penalty shoot outs used to settle drawn games.
Hopefully I can nab some tickets to watch any of the matches in this tournament when the unseemly scramble for tickets begins in 2011. It’s the lesser known sports such as this that I think offer the average punter the best chance of watching the Olympics/Paralympics in the flesh – while corporateville nabs the best seats for the better known sports.
Here’s sixty seconds of highlights from the Womens 3rd place game between Sweden and Denmark in Beijing...
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Queens Park Rangers (Part 1)
11-05-1979: Queens Park Rangers 0 Ipswich Town 4
In one of my earliest visits to QPR’s Loftus Road we stood at the School End, which, at the time, was an uncovered terrace. Ipswich won on that occasion by 4 goals to 0 thereby relegating the R’s to Division Two (the Championship in new money) or maybe they were already relegated. Either way the home fan’s were not in the best of spirits and we, and the handful of Town fan’s we were standing with, decided it was prudent to make a quick get away before the final whistle blew. And so to avoid a good kicking from the locals we legged it back to White City Stadium were I had left my trusty Mk II Ford Cortina.
Other than a place to park I don’t think I really gave White City much thought, and only later, and by then it had been demolished, did I regret not investigating the place a bit further and snapping a few pictures with my Kodak Instamatic (or whatever camera I had at the time). Built for the Franco-British Exhibition of 1908, and the London Olympics that were run in tandem, this was quite easily the largest stadium in England at the time boasting as it did 68,000 seats and large swathes of terracing that took it’s overall capacity to a not unimpressive 130,000.
QPR had two spells there, the first in 1931 and the second from 1962 to 1963, and one of the 1966 World Cup group games was played within it’s confines, but it was the sports of greyhound racing and speedway that were it’s primary breadwinners after the Olympics had left town. Now nothing at all remains of the stadium, ripped down to make way for BBC White City in 1985, except the finishing line of the 1908 marathon that has been marked out in front of the BBC Media Centre. The marathon, which started in Windsor, was extended from 26 miles to 26 miles and 385 yards so that it would finish in front of the Royal Box. Quirky though that increase was all marathons have been run over that distance since.
White City Stadium was by no means the only large stadium built in the capital during the first half of the 20th Century that didn’t make it beyond the second half (QPR playing at one – a 40,000 plus ground in Park Royal). But more on that in a later post.
Some more pictures of the outside of Loftus Road (taken in February, 2004) can be found here.
a (mainly) pictorial account of one man's obsession with football stadia, floodlight pylon's and ipswich town football club
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Ground Visit RecordENGLAND
(Fitness First Stadium)
(Wicor Recreation Ground)
(King's Marsh Stadium)
(Alton (Bass) Sports Ground)
(Brantham Athletic Sports & Social Club)
Brighton & Hove Albion
Brighton & Hove Albion
(New Writtle Street)
(Chelmsford Sport & Athletics Centre)
(Saunders Honda Stadium)
Dagenham & Redbridge
Debenham Leisure Centre
(Brewers Green Lane)
(Rush Green Bowl)
Felixstowe & Walton United
Great Yarmouth Town
(Wellesley Recreation Ground)
Harwich & Parkeston
Havant & Waterlooville
(West Leigh Park)
(Glass World Stadium)
(Five Heads Park)
(SEH Sports Ground )
(The New Den)
(National Hockey Stadium)
Netley Central Sports
(Station Road Recreation Ground)
(St James' Park)
(Cricket Field Road)
Preston North End
Queens Park Rangers
Saffron Walden Town
(Raymond McEnhill Stadium)
Soham Town Rangers
(Julius Martin Lane)
St Albans City
(New Farm Road)
(Green Meadows Stadium)
(Stadium of Light)
(White Hart Lane)
United Services Portsmouth
(Vosper Thornycroft Sports Ground)
Walsham Le Willows
(Walsham Sports Club Ground)
West Bromwich Albion
West Ham United
(King George V Playing Field )
(Denplan City Ground)
(St. Georges Lane)
Heart of Midlothian
(North Sydney Oval)
SW Wacker Innsbruck
(Constant Vanden Stock Stadium)
1. FC Koeln
1. FC Union Berlin
(Stadion An der Alten Försterei)
(Olympic Stadium, Amsterdam)
(GN Bouw Stadion)
(Abe Lenstra Stadium)
(Willem II Stadion)
(Gamla Ullevi (Old))
(Comiskey Park I)
Tampa Bay Rowdies
(Tampa Bay Stadium)