Bescot Stadium

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Banks's Stadium
WalsallF2Go.jpg
Stadium as viewed from the away end.
Full name Banks's Stadium
Location Banks's Stadium
Bescot Crescent
Bescot
Walsall
West Midlands
England
WS1 4SA
Coordinates 52°33′56″N 1°59′27″W / 52.5655°N 1.9909°W / 52.5655; -1.9909Coordinates: 52°33′56″N 1°59′27″W / 52.5655°N 1.9909°W / 52.5655; -1.9909
Public transit National Rail Bescot Stadium
Capacity 11,300
Record attendance 11,049
Walsall v Rotherham
9 May 2004[1]
Surface Grass
Construction
Built 1989–1990
Opened 18 August 1990
Construction cost £4.5m
Tenants
Walsall (1990–present)

Bescot Stadium, also known as the Banks's Stadium for sponsorship purposes, is a football stadium in Walsall, England, and the current home ground of Walsall Football Club. It was built in 1989–90, by GMI Construction, with a reported build cost of £4.5m.[2]

The stadium replaced the club's previous ground, Fellows Park, which was located a quarter of a mile away and was the club's home for 94 years.


History

Following the takeover of Walsall FC by Terry Ramsden in 1986, plans were drawn up for the club to move from its antiquated Fellows Park stadium to a new site in the town. In 1988, a site at Bescot Crescent was identified as the location for a new stadium, and work began on the new stadium in 1989 with completion targeted for the start of the 1990-91 season.

The stadium was opened on 18 August 1990, by Sir Stanley Matthews, prior to a friendly match with neighbours Aston Villa in front of 9,551 spectators. Aston Villa won the match 4–0.[3]

The first competitive game was played a week later on 25 August 1990. 5,219 spectators watched Walsall draw 2-2 with Torquay United, with the stadium's first goal being an own goal scored by Walsall defender Matt Bryant after 65 seconds. The first goal scored for Walsall at the stadium was by Stuart Rimmer.[4]

Originally both ends of the ground were standing areas, and the capacity of the ground was 11,104. However, capacity was reduced to around 9,800 in 1992, when the away supporters terrace was filled with seats.[5] Following an extension to the Tile Choice Stand (formerly known as the Gilbert Alsop Stand), during the 2002–03 season, it is now an all-seater stadium, with a capacity of 11,300.

A sponsorship deal with Banks's Brewery in 2007 saw the name officially changed from the Bescot Stadium to the Banks's Stadium. This sponsorship deal was extended in 2016 until the summer of 2022.[6]

The stadium has been host to England under-21, under-19 and under-17 international matches, Aston Villa reserve team matches and England women's international matches.

Outside football, the stadium has hosted two concerts. On 22 June 1991, The Wonder Stuff began their Sharing The Love mini-festival tour at the stadium.[7] Twenty-four years later, on 13 June 2015, the stadium hosted its second concert when Elton John played in front of 14,000 fans.[8]

Facilities

Stadium main entrance as seen from the car park.

The stadium is situated less than a mile from junction 9 of the M6 motorway, has a mainline railway station within easy walking distance and parking spaces for around 1,200 vehicles.

Bescot Stadium has two large conferencing suites – the Bonser Suite and the Stadium Suite. The Bonser Suite adjoins the rear of the Main Stand (formerly the H. L. Fellows Stand), while the Stadium Suite is underneath the upper tier of the northern most stand (currently the Tile Choice Stand). Both suites host conferences, cabaret evenings, concerts and events.

In addition to this, there are five further bars within the Stadium – the Swifts and Priory Lounges to the rear of the Main Stand, the Bescot Bar beneath the lower tier of the Tile Choice Stand, a bar beneath the away supporters stand, and one beneath the Family Stand. There are food and beverage kiosks in all four corners of the ground, whilst the Bonser Suite doubles as a restaurant on match days.

In 2009, the club erected a large advertising hoarding to the south of the southern most stand, facing the M6 motorway.

Ownership

It was reported in the Express and Star Newspaper on 6 June 2008, that Walsall were attempting to sell the stadium to Walsall Council, and renting it back to secure the club's financial future. The Council, however, stated they did not have the funds to purchase the ground.

During Spring 2011, the owner of Bescot Stadium, Jeff Bonser, announced via his proxy, Suffolk Life, that the stadium was for sale on the open market. Steve Jenkins, record producer and lifelong Walsall supporter, tried to drum up support for the council to buy the land.[9] [10]

On 11 July 2011, the idea of council ownership of Bescot Stadium was finally put to bed after the council voted 28–24 against purchasing the stadium.[citation needed]

Future

Plans to develop the southern most stand (which usually caters for away supporters) were announced by the club during 2005. The proposed development would mean using the blueprint of the northern most stand (currently the Tile Choice Stand), which stands opposite it.

Funding for the redevelopment was to come, in part, from a large advertising board on the back of the stand facing the M6 motorway. The board would be the largest illuminated sign adjacent to a motorway in Europe.[11]

However, due to the club's failure to regain Championship status, and the subsequent drop off in attendances, the redevelopment plans were put on hold.

References

  1. ^ "Walsall 3-2 Rotherham". BBC. 9 May 2004. Retrieved 2 July 2017. 
  2. ^ Matthews, Tony (1999). The Complete Record of Walsall Football Club. 
  3. ^ Matthews, Tony (1999). The Complete Record of Walsall Football Club. 
  4. ^ '20 years at Bescot' Archived 21 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine. Walsall Web-Fans, 25 August 2010
  5. ^ Matthews, Tony (1999). The Complete Record of Walsall Football Club. 
  6. ^ "Saddlers Raise a Glass to Sponsorship Deal". Saddlers.co.uk. 1 December 2016. Retrieved 2 July 2017. 
  7. ^ "May 1991 to Jan 1992". Room 512: the unofficial Wonder Stuff Website. Retrieved 2 July 2017. 
  8. ^ "Review: Elton John at the Banks's Stadium, Walsall". Native Monster. Retrieved 2 July 2017. 
  9. ^ 'Steve Jenkins makes a new point' Express & Star, 9 June 2011
  10. ^ 'Walsall back Steve Jenkins vision' Express & Star, 17 May 2011
  11. ^ Motorway sign 'biggest in Europe' BBC News, 11 October 2007
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