What Might Have Been…. the Proposed Redevelopment of Sincil Bank in 1973

Written by Malcolm Johnson

Please see the original post here

There has been much discussion in recent years about whether Lincoln City should move to a brand-new ground elsewhere or stay at a redeveloped Sincil Bank. Undoubtedly the part of the current stadium most seen as in need of change is what’s currently known as the Selenity Stand on the St. Andrews side of the ground. This is mainly due to its rather odd configuration of taking up little more than the central third of the length of the pitch with more or less empty space on both sides of it as a result of financial constraints when it was built in 1987.

However, it may either not be known or else forgotten that fourteen years earlier there were proposals for a new stand which would have made the construction of the 1987 stand unnecessary and resulted in a stadium much more suited to today’s needs.

In February 1973 with City struggling in the lower half of Division Four and with attendances of around 3,000 chairman Dennis Bocock announced plans for the biggest and costliest scheme ever to be undertaken by the club. Said to have been under consideration for almost two years it involved the replacement of the 1930s-built St. Andrews stand by a new one featuring an extended ground floor area of up to 80,000 square feet which would be leased to a development corporation for the provision of a large retail outlet assumed to be a supermarket. The leasing was to provide the club with £50-60,000 (around £500,000 in today’s values) every year for 10 years. According to Bocock the income would provide the financial resources to not only assure the club’s existence but enable it to ultimately rise to the First Division (Premier League) within those 10 years. At the end of that time the development would become City’s property with the income from the supermarket leasing going directly to the club at possibly £200,000 (£2m) per year.

The cost of the development was put at £600,000 (£6-7million today). The three-tier complex would include a gymnasium and indoor sports facility, a VIP club, offices, superior catering facilities, first-class toilets, dressing rooms with sauna, and in order to attract whole families, a children’s nursery for when ‘wives were shopping in the hypermarket while their husbands watch the match’.

The new stand would have seating for 6,000 and as it was stated the ground capacity would be increased from 24,000 to 32,000 it implies there must also have been standing space for 2,000.

The artist’s impression published in the Football Echo indicates the rest of the ground would have been unaltered although it appears the gymnasium would have eaten into the corner space occupied by the Spion Kop. What is probable is that the new stand would have been closer to the touchline than the old one. The retail area would have taken up the space occupied by the St Andrews training pitch with car parking next to that, although not many spaces are shown on the drawing – but it should be remembered there was minimal car parking space at the ground in those days anyway. A feature perhaps ahead of its time was the spacious circulating area above the retail outlet being accessed by ramps rather than steps.

There were mixed reactions in the press, with a comment in the Lincolnshire Chronicle about the plethora of new development schemes for the city over the years, including the Brayford Pool as a water recreation centre complete with a new theatre. Questioning whether the scheme was ‘pie in the sky’ and wondering where 32,000 people were going to come from to fill the enlarged ground, the writer finished rather prophetically – “it has as good a chance of getting off the ground as the new theatre”.

Maurice Burton in the Echo was more positive, remembering how when he first came to Lincoln in the mid-1950s there were six cinemas, a nationally-known racecourse, and a football club doing well in the Second Division (Championship). In comparison, he said, there were now just two cinemas, no racecourse and a football club in the lowest possible grade of League football. His point was there seemed to be a degree of apathy in many aspects of life in Lincoln and that it was perhaps time to break out of the rut. He also pointed out that if the club were successful enough to be rising through the divisions the crowds would turn up.

It was said at the time of these announcements that planning approval was about to be sought, and that was apparently still the case seven months later. Whether the scheme ever did get that far is unclear, but it appears that lack of funding put an end to it.