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The new Hampden re-opens 1994

Hampden Park

© SNSpix

There is little doubt that the time was right for the redevelopment of Hampden Park, when the project to revamp the national stadium was started, back in 1993. The face of modern football had been changed irrevocably as a result of the disasters at Heysel, Hillsborough and Bradford.

Hampden, which had hosted international football since 1903, had been the scene of many famous games over the years. In 1925 it had a capacity of 125,000, this rose to 150,000 in 1927 and to over 180,000 in 1937, on the completion of the old North Stand, making Hampden the world's largest football stadium. On many occasions the old Hampden Park attracted crowds in excess of 100,000 people, almost unthinkable in this day and age, most notably when a crowd of over 135,000 saw Real Madrid defeat Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3 in the 1960 European Cup Final.

However, massive changes were on the horizon in world football, meaning the only certainty for an antiquated, rotting old stadium, once capable of holding massive crowds, was that change would become inevitable.

Lord Justice Taylor's report had made it clear that all-seated football grounds, with individual seats for every spectator was the way forward. Although this report, in theory, only effected grounds in England and Wales, both UEFA and FIFA had also recently endorsed this policy. Most major clubs in England were already well on the way to having all-seated stadia, as were most of the leading lights in Europe. It was clear that every major football ground in Scotland would need to follow this lead. Ibrox Stadium, home of Glasgow Rangers had set the standard with a 52,000 capacity all-seated ground. Celtic would soon need to move with the times also, although it would take several more years before the revamped Celtic Park would rise as an all-seated stadium in Glasgow's east end and indeed Celtic themselves would spend a year in tenancy at the new Hampden before that transformation would be complete. In the world of rugby, the SRU had finalised plans for a dramatic transformation of Murrayfield, creating a 65,000 capacity all-seated ground, which would be completed the following year in 1994. The national football stadium could not afford to lag behind.

Hampden Park

© SNSpix

Plans were finally laid for the construction of a 52,000 all-seated stadium. The first hurdle to cross was that the original plans raised massive complaints from residents who lived close to the ground, upset by the noise, the mess and the pollution which would be caused by the redevelopment plans, as well as the long-term effect of an increased capacity major sports stadium on their doorstep. Increased consultation with local residents groups led to slow progress being made, yet the relationship between local residents and the Hampden authorities remains a fragile one.

One of the largest problems with any venture of this size, of course, has been funding. Hampden remains under the ownership of Queens Park Football Club, Scotland's oldest football club and a bastion of tradition, staunchly independent and proudly remaining as the only Amateur club still competing in the Scottish League. Queens Park was in a reasonably sound financial position at the outset of the redevelopment of Hampden.

Queens Park owned the stadium and a not insubstantial total of 33 acres of land around and adjacent to it. They initially set up a subsidiary company The National Stadium PLC, which soon raised £10m towards the cost of redevelopment from stadium debenture sales. The initial estimate of the cost was £60m, although the project cost was finally around £70m, prompting severe criticism from some Scottish politicians, both at Holyrood and Westminster, criticism which seems ludicrous to some with hindsight, given the eventual costs of the Holyrood Parliament building.

Support did eventually come from other agencies, receiving £30m from lottery grants, £18m of grant aid from a range of exchequer funded agencies, led by Sportscotland and £12m from private sponsors, primarily from BT Scotland, which together with the initial £10m from debentures meant that the money was eventually raised.

Redevelopment of the ground continued for over six years before it was ready to host another game. Work was painfully slow, with difficulties and controversy at every stage and every disagreement and problem seeming to make it into the national press. Many respected voices in Scottish sport and politics spoke out, some saying that the time and money being ploughed into Hampden was a waste and some suggested that the SFA should have looked more closely at other venues for a new national stadium. Yet progress was made, albeit slowly, the new North and East Stands being ready in 1993. Towards the end of 1996 the old wooden South Stand with its famous red brick exterior frontage, was demolished to make way for further redevelopment. A new cantilever roof was erected which joins the south-east and north-west corners. In the new North Stand, hospitality suites were built which now house some of the best function rooms in Scotland.

Hampden Park

© SNSpix

The new South and West stands were completed in early 1999. The later additions of the Scottish National Football Museum and the Scottish Centre for Sports Medicine were crucial parts of the jigsaw. The acquisition of much-needed grant money in the early stages of planning and development had indeed revolved around the creation of these much-needed facilities.

Hampden Park was reopened in May 1999, when the new, revamped national stadium once again hosted the Scottish Cup Final, between Celtic and Rangers, in which the Ibrox side triumphed by 3-1.
The new Hampden has never been slow to take up opportunities to host alternative sporting events and even music concerts. In July 2000, controversial American boxer Mike Tyson knocked out Lou Savarese in just 38 seconds in an extremely high-profile heavyweight-boxing bout at Hampden. Tyson's visit to Scotland itself had not been without controversy and the organisers and stadium authorities came in for stinging criticism from many quarters for inviting Tyson, a convicted rapist, to Glasgow.

However, Hampden Park received the highest endorsement in May 2002, when Real Madrid and Bayer Leverkusen ran out to compete in the UEFA Champions League Final. The return of Real Madrid to Hampden stirred many memories for older fans, who could recall that famous final of 1960. The Spanish Conquistadors, with their galaxy of world famous stars once again tasted European glory at Hampden, on this occasion triumphing 2-1 over their German opponents.

Champions League Final at Hampden Park

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Hampden was the home of the now-defunct Scottish Claymores, who were Scotland's only professional American Football team, from 2001 until 2004 and also hosted the final of American Football's World Bowl in June 2003, when a decent 28,000 crowd watched a clash between two German teams, as Frankfurt Galaxy defeated Rhein Fire 35-16. Doubtless this crowd would have been very much larger had the Scottish team made it to the final.

Huge sell-out concerts have been a regular occurrence at Hampden since its reopening, with the likes of Tina Turner, U2 and Rod Stewart being amongst the internationally renowned superstars who have performed there in recent years.

These have doubtless added to Hampden's reputation as an international arena as well as keeping the financial wheels oiled and ensuring that Hampden remains functioning.
Whether you love Hampden, or hate it, it seems that the old Mount Florida stadium, albeit in a modernised form, is likely to be around for some time to come.

Written by: Paul MacDonald

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