Friday, 7 December 2007

The Deva Stadium

he Deva Stadium is unique in construction, it may look like any other modern football stadium, but the purpose built home of Chester City Football Club is a ground that straddles a national borderline. Despite being an English club from an English city, footballers play their football in Wales when they grace the Deva Stadium turf. Built in the early 1990's, most of the stadium is in Wales, with the only exception being the club's main reception office and a small quarter of the main east stand.

Constructed in what must have been record time, there were doubts about weather or not Chester's new stadium would ever get built. As the club abandoned Sealand Road at the end of the 1989/90 season the following two years were spent in exile. The club took advantage of the Cheshire County F.A. training facilities in Moss Farm on the outskirts of Northwich and played there home games some forty miles away from the city at Macclesfield's Moss Rose ground. Attempts were made to play home games closer to home, with possible spells at Tranmere's Prenton Park and Wrexham's Racecourse Ground investigated, but in both cases the local authorities stepped in preventing such moves from taking place.

Speaking through his match programme notes for Chester's first league game at the Deva Stadium, chairman Ray Crofts described how surprised he was at the speed of the stadium construction. He said: "Morison Shand Construction have completed the stadium in an amazing thirty weeks and produced a home that Chester City Football Club and the people of Chester can be proud of. The local authorities, Police and Fire Brigade have all contributed to the successful completion of the ground and I am grateful to them all for all their help and co-operation."

On the afternoon of Tuesday 28th January 1992 history was made when the first turf was cut at a specially prepared ceremony on the site of Chester City's new home, later to be named the Deva Stadium following a naming competition run by the club through the local press. There were many worrying months for city fans prior to the ceremony as they were anxiously awaiting forms of evidence that their club was to finally return to the city following that testing time in exile across the County of Cheshire in Macclesfield. Ray Crofts continued: "The opening of the stadium brings to an end many months of anxiety not only for myself but for everyone concerned with the Club. It is a fitting tribute to all those people concerned with the club that we have such an excellent stadium back within the City of Chester."

The Deva was to be the first stadium in the country to comply with all the rules and regulations (the Taylor report) which were set out in the aftermath of the Hillsborough Tragedy. These features include special disabled spaces on both sides of the ground, automatic turnstyles and exits as well as all other safety features that are needed to meet the Taylor Report requirements.

It is unclear what the total capacity of the ground is, some sources report the grand capacity as being around 6,000 whilst others say it is actually less at approximately around 5,800. What is for sure the total seating available is 3,400, all of which is fully covered. However, City fans were just delighted to be back in the City after a long period of uncertainty surrounding the future of the football club. Chairman Crofts paid tribute to those loyal supporters who stuck by the club during its time in exile away from the City. He said: "I would like to thank our loyal fans for their support over the two seasons at Macclesfield and hope that together we will enjoy success on our return to Chester."

Completed just in time for the start of the new 1992/93 season, the Deva Stadium was officially opened on 24 August 1992 by The Rt Hon Lord Aberdare KBE, then chairman of the Football Trust. The players stepped out to a rapturous home coming in front of a carnival atmosphere at the first ever game to be hosted at Deva Stadium. Sadly though, that first season at the Deva turned out to be a complete disaster. On the pitch, Chester City spiralled out of control, Harry McNally's managerial career came to an end and by the time May 1993 came around the club dropped out of the second division for the first time since 1986.

No comments: