Groundtastic – Central Park

Groundtastic – Central Park

As part of my role as Scottish correspondent for Groundtastic magazine I wrote a number of club articles dedicated to a particular stadium. I hugely enjoyed visiting new towns and cities to unearth some architectural gems of the football world. As a roving reporter I visited Tynecastle, Firs Park, Victoria Park, Borough Briggs, and completed a tour of the football grounds of the Highland League to name but a few.

I have recently been watching the vlogs of Footy Adventures, which I would heartily recommend to those of you who are interested in football stadiums and architecture. These vlogs are exactly the sort of thing that I would have been producing if things were different. Sadly, I have been held back by a progressive, genetic disease of the nervous system, the related disability, a lack of technical expertise to produce videos and being in Scotland at the wrong time, with the wrong person.

I suppose what I have done as an alternative is to write Every Silver Lining has a Cloud, which is an autobiographical tour of the Welsh Premier League football grounds. For those who have yet to read it – shame on you. I am happy with my own contribution to the world of football architecture, but I can’t help having feelings of envy and jealousy as I watch the ever increasing body of vlogs produced by Footy Adventures.

I have decided to reproduce the club articles and photographs that I managed to take during my time in Scotland. This was a difficult time for myself as I was beginning to feel the full effects of living with Friedreich’s Ataxia. It would obviously difficult having to rely on trains to get me to my desired destination and the fact that I was losing my dexterity meant that it was increasingly difficult to take decent photographs.

Unfortunately, I have been unable to find the photographs that I took at Central Park. This is a pity as I remember taking lots of interesting photos, some of which included my favourite step son who I am no longer in touch with. I have had to sort photos from the internet and by clicking on each image, you will be transferred to the original home of the photograph.

Overall, I am happy with my contribution to Grountastic magazine, and hope the following is of interest to some of you. The articles appear in their original form, but I have updated some of the archaic website addresses that certain clubs had.


I had never watched a game of football from such a peculiar vantage point. I was sitting on the finish line of a stock car racing track in between countless rubber tyres peering ahead of me as a group of part-timers – known as the Blue Brazilians – ripped apart their Scottish second division opponents. This was my first visit to Central Park, Cowdenbeath and I hope it isn’t my last.

Central Park is a large oval bowl with three sides of uncovered terracing interrupting occasional sections of grass embankments. The fourth side is an untidy affair that offers room for 1,532-seated supporters in the old Main Stand and a relatively new stand alongside. The originally named Main Stand was opened in 1921 but vandals set fire to the wooden structure in 1985 while a second fire followed in 1992. Subsequently, two-thirds of the stand was salvaged and upgraded to accommodate 1,000-seated supporters. In 1995, the club extended the seating capacity on this side of the pitch by constructing the detached, 532-seat Alex Menzies Stand at a cost of £500,000. Unfortunately four floodlight pylons run along the front of these stands, which does impede the view.

However, the most distinguishing feature of this ground is the perimeter track that surrounds the pitch. It had been used for speedway and greyhound racing until 1970 when it was established as a stock car racing circuit. Central Park has since staged several world championships and still hosts regular meetings on a Saturday after the football. Indeed during my visit the entire second half was played against the background noise of revving engines from the assembled petrol heads waiting to use their track.

There are drawbacks of such an arrangement. For example, supporters are situated some distance from the football pitch and as a safety measure spectators are encased by meshed wire fencing, which can obscure the view.

Formerly of North End Park, Cowdenbeath have called Central Park home since 1917. On a Tuesday afternoon in September 1949, a record crowd of 25,586 watched Cowdenbeath take on Rangers in a League Cup quarter-final second leg tie. The ground has even outlasted the coal mine, which used to operate directly next to the ground. However, the Blue Brazil are now preparing to move to a new stadium on the outskirts of Cowdenbeath – complete with modern facilities and an all-weather grass pitch – following chairman Gordon McDougall’s decision to sell Central Park to developers.

McDougall, a former World Champion of stock car racing, said: “I have completed the missives for the sale of Central Park and will now vigorously pursue the council authorities to identify an appropriate site for our new stadium.

“We are looking at a new modern stadium of which the club and the local community can be proud. It will be designed to accommodate around 3000 fans with seating for 800 and incorporating good hospitality facilities. The pitch would be FIFA approved artificial grass. The whole project is dependant on planning permission but we hope to work with Fife Council to drive our plans forward and find a suitable site.” It is thought there will be two separate stadiums for football and stock cars, sharing only common car parking. . If plans go ahead the state of the art stadium should open in Summer 2009.

However, Cowdenbeath are still waiting for permission to sell their ground to developers. Local council officials fear that a new retail development at Central Park would be to the detriment of local businesses and would cause even greater congestion in the town than already exists.

Such a move has been discussed since 1989 so I wouldn’t hold my breath in anticipation. Although a new arena would ultimately benefit the club and wider society it will mean losing a unique ground with bags of character for what will surely be yet another faceless plastic palace.

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