After weeks of planning in November 2003 the first diggers moved into the Moss Side area of Manchester. The next few weeks saw the beginning of the end for Maine Road, which was the former home of Manchester City Football Club.
Along with the steel girders and masonry a million memories come tumbling down with the demolition of any stadium. In the case of Manchester City a precious part of the clubs history turned to dust just as had happened months earlier to Filbert Street the former home of Leicester City.
In the weeks that followed there was a large scale aution of various items of memorabilia from the site. While the cantilver roof structure ended up in ashes and soft strip ended up on a scrap heap more precious items such as seats from the North Stand were sold off to sit in private gardens.
Signage meanwhile from the Kippax now adorns many a bedroom wall. Money raised from the auction was used for investment in the new urban village area built on the site of the stadium.
Manchester City were originally called Ardwick FC and formed in 1887.
Financial troubles in the 1893–94 season led to a reorganisation within the club, and Ardwick turned into Manchester City. Manchester City Football Club Limited formally become a registered company on 16 April 1894.
By 1920 it was becoming clear the former Hyde Road ground of Manchester City was unfit for purpose. Interest from a growing population of working class supporters had grown to such an extent that safety within the wooden structure meant the ground was a safety hazard in some areas.
The plans to build Maine Road were first announced in May 1922 and this came following a decision by Manchester City to officially leave their previous ground. While off the field considerations were behind the move technical considerations also came into focus – the need for a bigger field, improve dressing rooms and VIP areas.
The site was two miles west of Hyde Road but closer to Manchester United a factor which upset some fans. The advantages however were that the club were moving to a growing densely populated urban area close to new social housing developments and within close proximity to the city centre.
Maine Road for its time as a football stadium located in the north of England was huge. While the ground was predominantly terracing the central stand had a capacity for 10,000 fans and the terracing ground was a concrete slab construct rather than wooden.
By the 1930’s Maine Road could easily attract crowds of over 75,000 and thanks to its structures avoiding major damage during WWII it hosted post war FA Cup semi-finals with over 80,000 fans watching on.
The large crowds saw investment in the ground increase. Further seating was installed and floodlights arrived in 1953 a feature that allowed Manchester United to play some of its European Cup ties in the 1950’s at Maine Road.
More Modern Times
Before its demise Maine Road had attractive roof structures on one side of the ground yet overall the stadium lacked coordination. Standing in the ground meanwhile could be a gloomy experience thanks to the low roof on the traditional Kippax stand.
While the Kippax was redeveloped, the redesign had been haphazard with all four sides of Maine Road of differing heights and construction styles some of which were temporary.
While the modern day Manchester City find themselves amongst Europe’s biggest clubs thanks to the billions of Arab owners, City were relegated in 1996 to the second tier of English football. In 1998 things got even worse with a drop to the third tier of football; a fact even more painful given that local rivals Manchester United were at the time an all-conquering side both domestically and in Europe.
City of Manchester Stadium
Fortunately the resurgence of City on the field co-incided with the hosting by Manchester of the 2002 Commonweath Games. An athletics stadium had been built for the predominatly multi-sport event successfully staged in the city. After negotiations the City Council invested £22m and the club £20m to convert the ground from a 38,000 capacity sports arena to a 48,000 seat football stadium.
Given the extent to which the Manchester City project has progressed since 2004 few are now phased by what was seen at the time by some as an outrageous act of football vandalism. Fans were given the chance to bid the stadium an emotional farewell but discomfort lingered as to the fate of the famous old ground in the immediate years after the move.
After it was vacated Stockport County declared an interest in moving to the stadium but no new tenants were found. Subsequently a decision was made to demolish in order to make way for a housing development.
Famous names of old stated that they would rather see Maine Road pulled down than rot away and by 2005 the go ahead was given for a new housing development to sit on the site, consisting of 474 homes.
Today there are few public artistic displays or key points of ornamentation commemorating the Maine Road stadium. But the site does feature a circular plate half open, and a memorial stone symbolising the centre spot.
Supporters and interested visitors eager to catch a few memories can walk around and through the site although few would guess it was ever a stadium unless you look very closely.
Street names such as Blue Moon Way and Treautmann Close appear, in gratitude some might say, to the distant voices of Manchester City supporters and heroes from the past. And the memorial to the groundsman hints to a pitch that was once one of the largest in England.