The Athletic Ground, London Road, Maidstone, Kent.
LOCATED————————————Just of the A20, Half a mile north west of Maidstone town centre.
ORIGINAL SITE—————————–An Orchard and Hop garden that firstly developed in to a cricket ground, before Maidstone United Football Club arrived.
DATE CONSTRUCTED——————–During the mid 1890’s.
DATE VENUE OPENED——————-May 1895 for Sports day purposes.
Meaning other sports may have taken place prior to the arrival of Greyhound Racing.
FIRST MEETING—————————–October 1st 1976. Closed May 19th 1980 and opened again October 9th 1981.
Greyhound Racing only.
LICENSED OR INDEPENDENT———-Had spells of both Independent and NGRC.
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——Outside 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———————————–454, 654, 680 metres.
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—————————Nothing known of.
STADIUM SHARED WITH——————Maidstone United Football Club.
LAST MEETING——————————-April 30th 1988.
Greyhound Racing only.
STADIUM CLOSURE DATE—————-April 1988.
Meaning other sports may have taken place after Greyhound Racing had ceased.
BUILT ON SITE——————————-Argos and other store becoming paert of The London Road Retail Park, just off Leafy Lane.
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.
Maidstone Greyhound Stadium was located just off the A20 London Road, about half a mile north west of Maidstone town centre. The original site had been an abandoned orchard and hop garden, before it was eventually landscaped to create a cricket pitch.
During the 1890’s a Cycling and an Athletics track was added, and became known as The Athletic Ground, due to the sport of athletics being staged there more than any other sport, with an inaugural sports day having taken place on the 22nd of May 1895. 1898 had become the year that football made its first appearance, with the newly formed club Maidstone United becoming the new tenants, not knowing at the time that it would continue to be their home for the next 90 years. It took virtually another 80 years before The Athletics Ground witnessed the introduction of greyhound racing, its inaugural meeting coming on the 1st of October 1976, when a fawn bitch called Le Espada won the first race.
Like all greyhound/football venues, the track ran around the perimeter of the football pitch, but sections of it did create problems. The problem lay around the two cornered areas were concrete had to been laid to allow the starting traps to roll into a parking position during racing, but what they did during matches was that they covered the concrete sections with artificial grass. Sounds a good idea, but when taking corners, especially in windy conditions the ball would not stay still, triggering off complaints, mainly from the opposition.
Racing had been staged under NGRC rules, but within twelve months, greyhound racing had ceased. The reason was that the greyhound company failed to pay up prize money to trainers, and had not paid levies on registration fees, forcing The BGRF initiating proceedings in court to wind up the greyhound company. By the end of 1977 a new company had taken control of the lease, but this time Maidstone operated as an independent track, but further in house turmoil witnessed another closure in May 1980. Another reorganisation of management promised that greyhound racing would return, and after months of improving facilities during its closure, the future of the sport looked promising.
Throughout this closed period, alterations had seen the refurbishment of the main stand and restaurant, along with a new kennel block, and also a total relaying of the circuit, which created a new racing distance. By October 1981 Maidstone Greyhounds Stadium was back in action once again, but this time reverting to stage meetings under NGRC Permit rules. Races consisted of six greyhounds contesting over distances of 454, 654 and 830 metres, with the hounds chasing an outside Sumner type hare. April 1983 witnessed another sporting venture at The Athletic Ground, this time Rugby League when Kent Invicta played their first ever match against Cardiff. But this sporting venture had been a brief spell only, as it had come to end by the following May, the reason being was that the rugby club had been unable to secure terms with the stadium’s owners.
Further disappointing news was announced during early 1988, stating that the stadium had been sold to developers, and that the stadium would eventually close in the next coming months. On the 23rd Of April 1988, Maidstone United played their final home fixture at London Road against Stafford Rangers. Yet it would be exactly a week later that greyhound racing would feature for the last time, with the well backed Movealong Jewel winning the last race, although a special trophy was given to Pretty Ash who happened to be the last hound to cross the line.
Before the year was out the stadium had been totally demolished, its foundations making way for a number of outlet buildings, collectively known as The London Road Retail Park. Today this site is found on Leafy Lane, and sadly leaves no trace at all of a sports stadium ever having been there.
A programme, photograph or even memorabilia for this track is required for this page, if you can help please contact me.