As the welcome gates were being opened at Tynecastle Park for the grand opening of a new Hearts £14m stand, so the shutters finally came down on another Edinburgh footballing institution.
Football had been played on the site of Meadowbank since the 1930’s. The former Old Meadowbank was a multi-purpose sports facility located in the Meadowbank area of Edinburgh and was used as a football stadium by Leith Athletic from the 1930’s.
The end for the Old Meadowbank came in 1966 when Edinburgh was named host city for the 1970 Commonwealth Games. Soon after plans were being put in place to create a suitable venue for the international Commonwealth games sporting extravaganza.
Work began on the new Meadowbank Stadium in 1967 and this was completed three years later at a total cost of £2.8m. It was officially opened on May 2nd, 1970 – just over a month before that year’s Commonwealth games kicked off.
With the demise of Leith Athletic, another football club appeared at Meadowbank in 1974 although this largely came thanks to the demise of another club Third Lanark FC. After beating off competition from Hawick Royal Albert, a number of Highland League clubs and Gateshead United, Ferranti Thistle were accepted into the league by a vote of 21–16 over Inverness Thistle.
The club initially faced a number of obstacles before they could join the third tier Scottish Division. The club name did not meet stringent SFL rules on the sponsorship of teams given its affiliation to Ferranti. Meanwhile, the City Ground stadium used located in the North of the city was not up to the standard of hosting league football.
Instead, Edinburgh City Council offered use of Meadowbank Stadium and after the local Evening News campaigned to find a name for the club, the name Meadowbank Thistle FC was chosen and approved by the SFL.
Meadowbank Thistle formed a competitive squad for a number of years only to eventually struggle by the time the late 1980’s arrived. Despite running close several times to promotion to the top tier the club never managed to reach the pinnacle of the Premier League.
The 1980’s turned out to be the pivotal point for the club. League reconstruction was in planning and by 1995, Meadowbank Thistle found themselves in their lowest ever position when they were relegated to the Third Tier and facing huge debts.
Eventually, Meadowbank Thistle was bought over and the club name was changed to Livingston with the club relocating to the West Lothian town of the same name to start again.
However, the demise of Meadowbank Thistle would not be the last football played at the stadium. Non-league side Edinburgh City moved in a year later on a pathway that would eventually see them win a place in SPFL League Two while still playing at Meadowbank Stadium.
Built for around £3m between 1967 and 1970 the ageing Meadowbank Stadium is to be replaced by a £41m complex which is due to open on the same site in 2020. The site will be a multi-sport arena hosting both indoor and outdoor sports. Although crowds remain sparse football watchers in the city remain hopeful that Edinburgh City will be able to play SPFL football at the new Meadowbank Arena site come 2020.
The sad day came in late November 2017 when the old venue closed its doors for the last time. Boasting a seating capacity of 5,000 plus uncovered if somewhat crumbling terracing to the east and west, the building had long since past its usage for football. The local economy meanwhile was crying out for a more modern community sports venue given the demand of a diverse array of sports with venues across the city already under pressure. And, despite attracting rock bands, festivals and marathons, Meadowbank Stadium was simply a relic in need of renovation.
This photo set is dedicated to Meadowbank Stadium, one of Edinburgh’s most iconic football and sporting venues.