Feature by Andy Beill
Updated Tuesday, 6th November 2007
The Tigers' home for over 50 years.
It was the threat of the rerouting of the railway line through the Anlaby Road line that convinced the then Chairman Dr Pullan that the Club needed to secure its future by owning its own ground. In 1929, Pullan raised this as the Tigers main priority and during the historic 1929-30 season, the board negotiated the purchase of land at the junction of Boothferry Road and North Road. The land had previously been part of the Hull Golf Club course until 1924. The purchase was completed with the help of a loan from the Football Association of £3000.
The board resolved to continue with the development despite relegation at the end of the season and plans were commissioned. Work did not commence until 1932, due to further financial problems, when the terracing was started and the pitch laid out.
There was no further development until 1939 when the plans were temporarily thrown into doubt due to a proposal to build a multi-purpose sports stadium on the site. However, as a reasonable price was not offered, the Tigers board resolved to continue with the plans. A further loan of £6,600 from the Football Association meant that Hull City were able to look forward to moving into their new Stadium for the start of the 1940-41 season.
The advent of the Second World War and the takeover of the ground by the Home Guard again put the plans on hold. The Home Guard use the site throughout the War including a period when the pitch area was used for the servicing and repair of Tanks. This played no small part in the terrible condition of the pitch during its first few seasons of use, the main problem being water logging.
At the end of the War, the Boothferry Road site was not suitable as a playing arena after War time usage and the difficulties in obtaining building licenses and materials meant that the stadium could not be ready for the 1945-6 season. The result was a temporary move to the Boulevard for that season.
The major factor in the future of the Tigers and the ground came with the take over of the company by a new board lead by Harrold Needler.
The new ground was opened on 31st August 1946 under the much more modern and grandiose name of Boothferry Park. The stadium only had one stand, the West Stand was completed and some parts of the Northern terrace were covered. It had been very difficult to reach this situation due to the lack of building materials available after the War and in fact Hull City had only been able to get planning permission for one grandstand, the West Stand, which could cost no more than £17,000. The Golf Pavilion on the site and turnstiles from the old ground were re-used to in the new development.
The first game was the opening game of the 1946-47 season and was an uninspiring 0-0 draw with Lincoln City. Twenty thousand spectators watched the Lord Mayor open the ground and then the game in pouring rain.
However, Boothferry Park was to witness much larger crowds, which seemed to have justified the Board's plans to upgrade the Stadium to an 80,000 all seated facility. In 1948 the visit of Middlesbrough in the FA Cup raised the record attendance record 40,179. Less than twelve months later, after considerable work using Bulldozers to raise the height of the terracing, a massive 55,019 watched Raich Carter's team loose 1-0 to Manchester United on 26th February 1949. This attendance record stands to this day.
The famous railway link between Hull Paragon Station and the Boothferry Halt began running in January 1951 when six trains carried 595 fans to an FA Cup tie with Everton. About this time, Hull City began work on the extension of the covered area of the North Stand from about one third cover to the full width of the stand. This was followed immediately after by the erection of the covered area of the East Stand terrace. This was intended to be a temporary structure, which was to be eventually replaced by a two-tier stand that was to include a gymnasium. However, the plans for this new Stand never came to fruition so the temporary covered area remains today.
The completion of the covered area of the East Stand terrace gave Hull City a suitable set up for the installation of their first set of flood lights. The Tigers went ahead despite that fact that at the time artificial lumination was not approved by the FA for use in competitive games. Hull City's licence was approved in the November of 1952 and the club installed two lighting gantries, one on each of the East and West sides of the ground. The gantries, which housed 96 lights, were widely reckoned to be the best in the country and the first game played under them was a "Floodlit Friendly" played against Dundee United on 19th January 1953. A laudable 31,702 saw the Tigers loose 1-4.
The fast developments in this field meant that within ten years, the system was no longer suitable for competitive games and Hull City spent £50,000 of Harold Needler's gift on a unique six-pylon system. The first game played under the new lighting system was much more appropriate that their previous debut under lights as Hull City dazzled Barnsley with a 7-0 victory in which Chilton scored four goals and Henderson the other three.
Another £50,000 of the gift was used to build a gymnasium behind the South Stand with a adjacent outdoor training pitch, which was opened in January 1964 by Football League Secretary, Alan Hardaker. The gymnasium was one of the best facilities at the time and the opening of the development was timely coming just as the training ground at Anlaby Road was demolished. The facility is still in use under the grander title of "Hull City's Sports Arena" and has seen such events as a visit from the Harlem Globetrotters!
The high-banked open terrace, popularly known as "Bunkers Hill", at the South end of the Stadium was replaced during the 1965 closed season with the South Stand which increased the seating capacity to 9,000. The standing area in the South Stand is still affectionately known as Bunkers to most who stand there. The reported cost for this was £130,000 meaning that the ambitious Tigers had spent nearly £250,000 on improvements to Boothferry Park in three years.
From this high point, it has been a tale of the slow deterioration of Boothferry Park over the following 36 years to a total capacity of just over 15,000. The Tigers' plans for an 80,000 seater stadium which were ambitious even in the 1950's were never progressed any further and in its current state the stadium is a shadow of former glories.
Hull City announced plans to construct a £1.5 million supermarket and leisure complex on the car park in June 1979. However, the prohibitive cost of tunneling beneath the nearby railway line to link the ground with alternative car parking off near by Kempton Road meant that the plans had to be re-considered. This meant demolishing the North Stand and maintaining the existing car park instead.
The complex was intended to provide additional revenue to support the struggling club but in the midst of the developments in early 1982, the company went into Receivership for the first time. Although a rescue package, lead by Don Robinson and Christopher Needler, succeeded in restoring the Tigers on field fortunes for a time, the leisure aspects of the scheme were shelved. The most ambitious plan was to build a "Hollywood" style bowl on top of the North Stand to be used for pop concerts which was rejected after resident protests.
The aftermath of the Bradford City Valley Parade fire and the resultant Safety of Sports Ground Act 1985 required major work to be carried out on the ground. This included the closure of the East Stand after terracing at the rear of the stand was categorised as unsafe and the ending of the use of the railway link. The East Stand was re-opened with a reduced capacity and in following three years nearly £600,000 was spent on bringing the Stadium up to the new standard. This work included replacing the South Stand terracing and the building of Executive Boxes at the rear of the West Stand.
Under the supervision of John Cooper, the Boothferry Park pitch was totally refurbished before the start of the 1991-2 season, which included the installation of a complete new drainage system. At the same time, the corporate boxes in the West Stand were extended.
Little else was done to Boothferry Park, except the odd coat of paint, until the continuing poor state of repair of the "temporary" East Stand covered areas, popularly known as "Kempton", led to its complete closure in 1996. The Stand was re-opened in 1997 after the capacity was further reduced and some remedial work was carried out but a failure to meet the minimum standards set out in the Taylor Report on Ground Safety meant it was closed down again in early 1999. This resulted in Hull City carrying out major reconstruction work on "Kempton" with the support of the Football Trust who provided £70,000 of the reported final costs of £80,000. This work also included changes to the carriers in all standing areas in the ground and the removal of the last pieces of low level perimeter fencing. Problems with the weather and the foundations of the stand caused delays with the Stand not re-opening until March 2000.
Boothferry Park's ownership has been a major area of concern after the ground was not sold with the Club in 1997 with David Lloyd maintaining ownership. This has led to lock-outs during the 2000 off season and again during the recent period of Administrative Receivership both due to allegedly unpaid rent.
Hull City AFC, along with Hull FC, moved to the new Kingston Communications Stadium in December 2002, seeing the demise of the place that many called home for over 50 years. It was still used for reserve games after the first team's move until being shut in 2003. It now remains derelict.