Rochdale Greyhounds Limited, Athletics Ground, Milnrow Road, Rochdale, Greater Manchester.
LOCATED————————————-Just off the A644 one mile south east of Rochdale town centre.
ORIGINAL SITE——————————Newbold Farm and the surrounding grazing land before becoming an athletics and rugby ground.
DATE VENUE OPENED——————-September 1894 for Rugby League
Meaning other sports may have taken place prior to the arrival of Greyhound Racing.
FIRST MEETING—————————–June 18th 1932.
Greyhound Racing only.
LICENSED OR INDEPENDENT———-NGRC up until September 1962 then independent.
All venues covered would have to be licensed with the government, licensed suggested in this section would refer to tracks operating under NGRC Rules.
INSIDE OR OUTSIDE HARE TYPE——Inside Sumner.
Please note that the Electric Hare suggested is only a guidance and would have been in operation for a certain amount of time at this venue. Although it is not necessarily guaranteed that it was operational all the time, as other types of lure may have been used and updated as time progressed.
DISTANCES———————————–319, 500 and 530 yards.
Please note that most racing venues distances had become varied throughout the years, the ones given above were at once point set and offers only a guidance to the track size.
Please note that alterations at most racing venues throughout its existence would see that the circumference of the track would vary, the one shown above offers only a guidance to the track size.
BIG RACE NAMES—————————None found.
STADIUM SHARED WITH——————Athletics and Cycling in its early days. Rochdale Hornets RLFC made it their home from 1894-1988. Speedway 1928 and from 1970-1972, Stock Car Racing from 1969-1987 and Rochdale football club from 1896-1900.
LAST MEETING——————————-November 17th 1969.
Greyhound Racing only.
STADIUM CLOSURE DATE—————-April 16th 1988 A rugby league fixture between Rochdale Hornets against on the 16th of April 1988 was the last sporting fixture there.
Meaning other sports may have taken place after Greyhound Racing had ceased.
BUILT ON SITE——————————–The site was sold to Morrisons Superstore for 2.4 million, its car park dominates most of the old site adjacent to the local railway line.
In some cases, structure’s that originally covered the venue after the stadium had been demolished, may have been themselves demolished too, so the one described is more likely to be the one which now presently covers the site.
EVIDENCE LEFT TODAY——————–Nothing known of.
FURTHER COMMENTS———————Shortly after its closure a fire gutted the main stand causing about £100,000 of damage, at the time the stadium was not covered by insurance.
Greyhounds Racing in Rochdale featured at the Athletics Stadium on Milnrow Road, a multi sports venue once found just off the A644, one mile southeast of Rochdale town centre. The first sporting activities on the site stretches back as far as 1894, when a patch of grazing land that belonged to Newbolds Farm, was used to host rugby league matches. The pitch would eventually become the home to Rochdale Hornets who would make it their home for the next ninety years or so. It soon became a multi sports venue when athletics and cycling track was added around the pitch shortly after.
Then in 1896, Rochdale Football Club moved in as tenants, but football was short lived lasting for no more than four seasons before the football club moved into their new home at Spotland on the other side of town. More sports became added to the list of events, when in 1928, dirt track speedway made a brief appearance, lasting for just two seasons only, before eventually returning forty years later. Stock Car Racing also featured, firstly during 1970 for two seasons, and then continued for another ten years before ending in 1987 due to local residents complaining about noise levels.
During the boom days of rugby league, the Athletics Ground hosted its biggest event in 1924, when Wigan and Oldham met each other in The Rugby League Challenge Cup Final in front of a crowd of 41,380. Another sport was to feature after the winding up of Rochdale’s speedway team in 1930, when a greyhound racing company agreed to lease the stadium. The Greyhound Racing promoters invested heavily, firstly by laying a greyhound track and hare system over the existing speedway cinder track and also introduced a totalisator system.
Operating under NGRC rules, Rochdale’s first meeting came on the 18th of June 1932, with events being run over the 500-yard trip. But within three years of operation, a serious fire completely gutted the main stand and the greyhound photo finish tower. Yet by the end of 1936, a new 190-foot-long grandstand which could seat 1300 people, replaced the earlier fire damaged stand.
More bad press came in 1939 after two spectators were killed and seventeen seriously injured, when a stand roof collapsed during a rugby league challenge cup semi-final between Salford and Wigan. The tragedy happening due to excessive numbers of gate-crashing spectators, clambering on to the stand roof just to gain a better view.
Greyhound Racing at Rochdale continued under NGRC rules for almost thirty years before opting out to switch to independent racing in 1962. The new betting legislation introduced in 1961 had certainly contributed to this move, having seen the numbers of patrons through the turnstiles drop drastically. As an independent track, events continued with five greyhound’s competing over distances of 319-, 500- and 530-yard trips, with the hounds chasing an inside Sumner type hare.
But after a seven-year spell as a flapping track, the greyhound company failed in its efforts to renew the lease, which sadly brought greyhound racing to an end in Rochdale, with its final meeting being staged on the 17th of November 1969. With the greyhounds now gone, both Speedway and Stock Car Racing promoters began to show interest, and it became as no surprise when the greyhound track was ripped up before being replaced by a tarmac circuit.
With the constant changes going on around this period, Rochdale Hornets still continued to survive on gates less than 2,000, yet it was the motor events who attracted the better gates, sometimes trebling that figure. But it was rugby club who stuck with the stadium until the very end, with the Hornets closing the stadium with a match against Carlisle City on the 16th of April 1988 in front of 979 onlookers. More bad news was to follow, shortly after its closure, another serious blaze virtually destroyed the main stand. This time the damage was caused by vandals at an estimated cost of £100,000. But an even bigger hammer blow became unearthed after the stadium owners had realised that they had no insurance cover.
Fortunately, a deal had been struck previously regarding the sale of the stadium after the Morrison’s Group had made a successful bid of 2.6 million pounds. The deal also included a healthy pay out for the rugby club, a deal which would secure their future and their tenancy at neighbouring Rochdale Football Club’s Spotland ground.
Today, no evidence remains of the Athletic Stadium, as the site is now totally covered by a car park, used solely by customers of a Morrison’s Superstore, although it is claimed that the rugby club did transfer the old scoreboard from the old venue to their present-day home at Spotland.
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