The last decade has been quite the roller coaster ride for Rotherham United. Successive promotions had brought the club to the Championship by the start of the new millennium, but in 2005 it went all downhill again. Relegation to League 1 was followed by financial difficulties, another relegation two year later, and administration (twice).
The club was in the end saved by local businessman Tony Stewart, now chairman of the club, but agony was not over yet as Rotherham were forced to leave their home for over 100 years, Millmoor, after a dispute with the owner of the ground.
Sure, Millmoor was far from a great ground, but it was at least a home, and fans were now forced to make a trip to Sheffield’s Don Valley Stadium, an athletics stadium, every other week.
At around the same time the club announced that it had plans to build a new community stadium, but announcing is of course something different than building. Ask, for example, Brighton, who spend 15 years in exile before moving into The Amex last summer.
Things did not turn out that bad for Rotherham though, and the club had obtained planning permission by the end of 2010. Construction started in the summer of 2011, and the stadium was completed one year later.
Over the past few weeks, Rotherham has slowly been opening their new home. Instead of opening with a bang with a friendly versus some southern European opponent, the club instead held a series of test events, a few pre-season friendlies, and then finally last Saturday the first league game against Burton Albion.
England’s lower leagues have already seen quite a few new stadium openings in recent years, but few stand out and some may have expected Rotherham to be just the next club with a rather generic soulless stadium. But this is not the case, as there are a few thing that definitely stand out.
First of all, there is the name: New York Stadium. Surely a name that sticks, but perhaps a bit too cheap of a marketing ploy to appeal to the American market? Well, not so much, as there is a bit more to the name than it initially suggests, because the land the stadium stands on used to belong to the Guest and Chimes steel factory that manufactured the characteristic fire hydrants that can be found all over the streets of New York.
Then there is the roof, which from the higher main stand gently steps down to the lower Family Stand. The special pitch-side balconies at the same Family Stand also give the stadium a rather unique touch, as do the nicely designed floodlights.
The New York Stadium furthermore has a sensible capacity of 12,000 seats, is fully enclosed, and offers a lot of facilities for conferences and events that should keep the stadium running all year round. This Friday, for example, one is able to attend an Ultimate 80′s night that features the best of Wham, Duran Duran, and Spandau Ballet.
Rotherham United’s official return to the city last Saturday was a happy one, as it managed to beat Burton Albion 3-0. The club has already sold over 4,000 season tickets, and over 11,000 people were in attendance to witness the league opener. Sunnier times seem finally to have started for the club.
Photo credits: © Wikimedia user Rotherhamlad1983.