Football’s building homes: on an under-discussed source of brownfield land

England manager Gareth Southgate is a man, we reckon, who would favour building more bloody houses. Image: Getty.

The whole of England is convinced that Football’s Coming Home. We at CityMetric are more interested in the “home” bit than the football, of course – but don’t worry lads, I’ve found a link.

For much of my teens and twenties I followed Hull City around the country. The football was miserable, but the trains, beer and friendships were great, and more than compensated for the inevitable defeat in Burnley or Brighton.

The event that stopped me going was Hull City’s move to a shiny new stadium. All my mates got season passes grouped together in an all-seater stadium. I couldn’t face that level of commitment, and quickly drifted away.

Hull is far from the only football club to have upped sticks from a dilapidated ground to swanky stadium – so I’ve started to wonder what has happened to the former sites of the national game. Researching this turned out to be simple, mainly because football attracts geeks in much the same way transport does, and so there are plenty of helpful websites.


My first task was to pick a cut-off date, so I didn’t have to go all the way back to 19th century. Fortunately football transformed itself in 1992 when the structure of the game was changed with the creation of the Premiership. Following this, money poured into the game: for many teams this was the catalyst for the recent trend for teams to move to new homes.

Of the 92 teams in the Premiership and Football League in the 1992-93 season, 29 have since left their grounds. Here’s what has happened to the abandoned stadia.

Premiership

Off the 22 teams that were in the inaugural Premiership, five have moved on to pastures new.

First to leave were Middlesborough, abandoning Ayresome Park in 1995 for The Riverside. This move was designed to kick-start the redevelopment of the town’s docks area. It didn’t. The old ground, like many, was in a residential district. Homes now stand where Brain Clough once scored for fun. I’m sorry to say that The Turnstile and The Midfield are the actual street names here.

A new development in Middlesborough within a sea of back to backs. Image: Google.

In 2001 Southampton left The Dell for St Mary’s Stadium, a similar dockside location to The Boro. The Dell is still The Dell. It is a rather impressive apartment block, which follows the footprint of the old stands.

The pitch is a car park, and the stands are homes at the Dell. Image: Google.

Manchester City were attracted to the shiny new stadium which had been built for the Commonwealth Games. The club moved out of Maine Road in 2003. The site has since been redeveloped into rather attractive terrace housing.

More terracing has been replaced by terraced housing at Maine Road. Image: Google.

Coventry City ditched Highfield Road for the out of town Ricoh Arena in 2005. The scene of too many years of topflight football is now the Signet Square Children Park, which is surrounded by modern high density housing.

Coventry’s compact ground has been replaced by tall housing. Image: Google.

Arsenal was the last of the original Premiership teams to relocate, moving a couple of hundred meters from Highbury to The Emirates Stadium adjacent to the East Coast Mainline. Listed building status means that two of the stands at Highbury remain: they’ve been repurposed and now house apartments.

Highbury Square, still recognisably an ex-football stadium. Image: Google.

All housing so far – a trend that will continue as we descend down the leagues.

Division 1

Millwall left The Den for The New Den (now The Den) in 1993. The pitch has been replaced by a distribution warehouse and a London Overground depot. I wonder if South East London wasn’t in much demand for housing in the early 1990s? a housing estate (sorry, we got this bit wrong).

No evidence of the old den in south east London. Image: Google.

Derby County left The Baseball Ground in 1997. It’s now housing, with a large green. Derby was one of few teams with its own railway station, and it’s still there. Opened in 1990 and closed in 1997, only 4 trains ever stopped at the Ramsline Halt.

The modern housing that has replaced the baseball ground. Image: Google.

Sunderland also relocated in 1997. Roker Park has been replaced by a housing development.

In 2001 Oxford United left The Manor Ground. It has been replaced by The Nuffield Manor Hospital, which is different.

With a central atrium, the hospital in Oxford follows the lines of the football ground it replaced. Image: Google.

Leicester City abandoned Filbert Street in 2002. Most of the site appears undeveloped apart from a large block of Halls of Residence, these days called “Unite Students – Filbert Village”. Things have changed since I was at Leicester Poly.

There’s still plenty of room for more student accommodation at Flibert Street. Image: Google.

West Ham United left Upton Park last year. It’s already been levelled: the developer has plans for 838 new homes, retail outlets and leisure facilities.

Divison 2

Counterintuitively, teams lower down the football ladder in 1993 are more likely to have moved to new stadiums. For many down in Division 2, the new location has been a springboard to a big upturn in their fortunes: 8 of the 9 teams with new stadiums have made it into the top flight, whereas only six of the 15 teams who have kept there traditional homes have achieved that.

  • Huddersfield Town left Leeds Road in 1994: it is now a B&Q.
  • Bolton Wanderers left Burnden Park in 1997: it has become the Burden Park Shopping Centre.
  • Brighton and Hove Albion left The Goldstone in 1997: it quickly became the Goldstone Retail Park.
  • Stoke City left The Victoria Ground in 1997. The site is undeveloped, but earmarked for housing.
  • Reading left Elm Park in 1998, and it has been developed for housing.
  • Wigan Athletic left Springfield Park in 1999: it is now housing.
  • Hull City left Boothferry Park in 2002: that is also housing.
  • Swansea City left Vetch Field in 2005. This one is odd. It is earmarked for a housing development with “safe streets”, but currently hosts allotments. The centre circle of the pitch will not be built upon, because people have had their ashes spread there.
  • Rotherham United left Millmoor in 2008. The ground is still there. It’s still in use with an Under 18’s team playing their home fixtures there.

The Victoria Ground, Stoke, will be 2, 3 & 4 bedroom homes, soon. Image: Google.

Division 3

Lots more housing from the lower league. Darlington (2003), Doncaster Rovers (2006), Shrewsbury Town (2007), Colchester United (2008), Cardiff City (2009) and Chesterfield (2010) have all become residential developments. Barnet (2013) appears to be joining that group as demolition started this year. Scarborough (2007) now hosts a Lidl.

Northampton Town left their traditional home for pastures new in 1994 but the County Ground is still going strong. The Cobblers shared the ground with Northamptonshire County Cricket Club, and First Class cricket continues to be played there, on the odd occasion it’s not raining in Northampton.

Cricket remains in the county ground Northampton, taking up a big chunk of land. Image: Google.

In Summary

Some 29 teams have relocated. Two grounds continue to host sport. One is a hospital; four are retail outlets. The remaining 22 are, or will shortly be, providing homes.

It’s hard to calculate how many people now live in these developments. Some of them have produced a lot of homes: Highbury Square contains 650 flats. So do 10,000 people live on these sites? 20,000? More?

Whatever the figure, they have been a significant supply of brownfield sites in many towns and cities. Yet it is a very limited supply of land.

If only there was another sport that could deliver land for housing? Anyone up for re-classifying all golf courses as brownfield sites?

 
 
 
 

What does the fate of Detroit tell us about the future of Silicon Valley?

Detroit, 2008. Image: Getty.

There was a time when California’s Santa Clara Valley, bucolic home to orchards and vineyards, was known as “the valley of heart’s delight”. The same area was later dubbed “Silicon Valley,” shorthand for the high-tech combination of creativity, capital and California cool. However, a backlash is now well underway – even from the loyal gadget-reviewing press. Silicon Valley increasingly conjures something very different: exploitation, excess, and elitist detachment.

Today there are 23 active Superfund toxic waste cleanup sites in Santa Clara County, California. Its culture is equally unhealthy: Think of the Gamergate misogynist harassment campaigns, the entitled “tech bros” and rampant sexism and racism in Silicon Valley firms. These same companies demean the online public with privacy breaches and unauthorised sharing of users’ data. Thanks to the companies’ influences, it’s extremely expensive to live in the area. And transportation is so clogged that there are special buses bringing tech-sector workers to and from their jobs. Some critics even perceive threats to democracy itself.

In a word, Silicon Valley has become toxic.

Silicon Valley’s rise is well documented, but the backlash against its distinctive culture and unscrupulous corporations hints at an imminent twist in its fate. As historians of technology and industry, we find it helpful to step back from the breathless champions and critics of Silicon Valley and think about the long term. The rise and fall of another American economic powerhouse – Detroit – can help explain how regional reputations change over time.

The rise and fall of Detroit

The city of Detroit became a famous node of industrial capitalism thanks to the pioneers of the automotive age. Men such as Henry Ford, Horace and John Dodge, and William Durant cultivated Detroit’s image as a centre of technical novelty in the early 20th century.

The very name “Detroit” soon became a metonym for the industrial might of the American automotive industry and the source of American military power. General Motors president Charles E. Wilson’s remark that, “For years I thought what was good for our country was good for General Motors, and vice versa,” was an arrogant but accurate account of Detroit’s place at the heart of American prosperity and global leadership.

The public’s view changed after the 1950s. The auto industry’s leading firms slid into bloated bureaucratic rigidity and lost ground to foreign competitors. By the 1980s, Detroit was the image of blown-out, depopulated post-industrialism.

In retrospect – and perhaps as a cautionary tale for Silicon Valley – the moral decline of Detroit’s elite was evident long before its economic decline. Henry Ford became famous in the pre-war era for the cars and trucks that carried his name, but he was also an anti-Semite, proto-fascist and notorious enemy of organised labor. Detroit also was the source of defective and deadly products that Ralph Nader criticized in 1965 as “unsafe at any speed”. Residents of the region now bear the costs of its amoral industrial past, beset with high unemployment and poisonous drinking water.


A new chapter for Silicon Valley

If the story of Detroit can be simplified as industrial prowess and national prestige, followed by moral and economic decay, what does that say about Silicon Valley? The term “Silicon Valley” first appeared in print in the early 1970s and gained widespread use throughout the decade. It combined both place and activity. The Santa Clara Valley, a relatively small area south of the San Francisco Bay, home to San Jose and a few other small cities, was the base for a computing revolution based on silicon chips. Companies and workers flocked to the Bay Area, seeking a pleasant climate, beautiful surroundings and affordable land.

By the 1980s, venture capitalists and companies in the Valley had mastered the silicon arts and were getting filthy, stinking rich. This was when “Silicon Valley” became shorthand for an industrial cluster where universities, entrepreneurs and capital markets fuelled technology-based economic development. Journalists fawned over successful companies like Intel, Cisco and Google, and analysts filled shelves with books and reports about how other regions could become the “next Silicon Valley”.

Many concluded that its culture set it apart. Boosters and publications like Wired magazine celebrated the combination of the Bay Area hippie legacy with the libertarian individualism embodied by the late Grateful Dead lyricist John Perry Barlow. The libertarian myth masked some crucial elements of Silicon Valley’s success – especially public funds dispersed through the U.S. Defense Department and Stanford University.

The ConversationIn retrospect, perhaps that ever-expanding gap between Californian dreams and American realities led to the undoing of Silicon Valley. Its detachment from the lives and concerns of ordinary Americans can be seen today in the unhinged Twitter rants of automaker Elon Musk, the extreme politics of PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, and the fatuous dreams of immortality of Google’s vitamin-popping director of engineering, Ray Kurzweil. Silicon Valley’s moral decline has never been clearer, and it now struggles to survive the toxic mess it has created.

Andrew L. Russell, Dean, College of Arts & Sciences; Professor of History, SUNY Polytechnic Institute and Lee Vinsel, Assistant Professor of Science and Technology Studies, Virginia Tech.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.