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Stadium Of Light, Sunderland, England, UK

 

The Stadium of Light is an all-seater football stadium in Sunderland, England and the eighth and current home to Sunderland A.F.C. With space for 49,000 spectators, the Stadium of Light is the ninth largest stadium in England. The stadium primarily hosts Sunderland A.F.C. home matches. The stadium was named by chairman Bob Murray to reflect the coal mining heritage of the North East and the former Monkwearmouth Colliery site on which it stands. A Davy lamp monument stands at the entrance to reflect the coal mining industry that brought prosperity to the town. As well as hosting Sunderland games, the stadium has hosted three matches for the England national football team, as well as one England under-20 football team match. With an original capacity of 42,000, it was expanded in 2000 to seat 49,000. Its simple design is apparently to allow for redevelopments up to a capacity of 63,000. The attendance record at the Stadium of Light is 48,353 set on 13 April 2002, when Sunderland played Liverpool with the visitors running out 1–0 winners.

 

Along with hosting football matches, the stadium has played host to performers such as Beyonce, Rihanna, OasisTake ThatKings of LeonColdplaySpice Girls and Elton John. The ground also holds conference and banqueting suites, the Black Cats Bar, and a club shop selling Sunderland merchandise. Following the release of the Taylor Report in January 1990, Sunderland was obliged to make plans to turn their Roker Park home into an all-seater stadium. Roker Park was a ground that mainly consisted of standing terraces, and if converted into all-seater it would have held far fewer spectators than before. Enclosed by residential streets on all sides, expansion was practically impossible.

Planning and construction

Following the release of the Taylor Report in January 1990, Sunderland was obliged to make plans to turn their Roker Park home into an all-seater stadium.[6] Roker Park was a ground that mainly consisted of standing terraces, and if converted into all-seater it would have held far fewer spectators than before. Enclosed by residential streets on all sides, expansion was practically impossible. So, by 1991, Sunderland chairman Bob Murray had started to scour the local area for possible sites to build a new all-seater stadium. 

The front-runner that emerged was a proposed stadium located on an area of land adjacent to the Nissan car plant. The 49,000 all-seater ground was labelled "the Wembley of the North" by Sunderland fans and would boast a capacity that not even Manchester United's Old Trafford exceeded until 1996. The plans did not come to fruition. Shortly after the plans were announced in 1992, Nissan launched an official objection, ultimately forcing Sunderland to abandon the idea. By 1995, the site of the Wearmouth Colliery, which had closed in December 1993, was identified as the club's preferred location for a new stadium. The area, on the north bank of the River Wear in the Sheepfolds district of Sunderland, was only a few hundred yards from Roker Park, and close to the centre of the city.

 

In 1993, Sunderland's planned new stadium was on the shortlist for Euro 96 venues, as England had been named as hosts of the competition in May 1992. However, it soon become clear that a new stadium in Sunderland would not be ready in time for the tournament. On 13 November 1995, the Sunderland chairman Bob Murray announced that the Tyne and Wear Development Corporation had approved plans for Sunderland to build a 34,000-seater stadium on the Monkwearmouth site. Ballast Wiltshier plc, a contracting company that had built the Amsterdam Arena, was contracted to build the stadium at an initial cost of £15 million. In June 1996, as the planned capacity rose to more than 40,000, construction work began. The capacity was revised again in early 1997, and the stadium was completed on time, with a capacity of 42,000. The stadium's design allows possible expansion of a further tier; completed expansion of the whole upper tier would produce a capacity of 63,000, although it is believed by some that the stadium can expand to a maximum capacity of 84,000, this would seem unlikely ever to be exercised.

The stadium was opened on 30 July 1997 by Prince Andrew, Duke of York, with bands such as Status QuoUpside Down and Kavana playing. To celebrate the opening of the stadium, Sunderland played a friendly against the Dutch side Ajax, which was drawn 0–0. The move did not happen without criticism. Famous actor and Sunderland supporter, often named in the media "Sunderland's most famous supporter", Peter O'Toole, said he wasn't as much a fan as he used to be since the team left Roker Park. Playwright Tom Kelly and actor Paul Dunn created a one-man play called "I Left My Heart at Roker Park" about a fan struggling with the move and what Roker Park meant for him - the play originally ran in 1997, and had a few revivals since.

 

The North Stand was extended in 2000 to bring the capacity to 49,000, costing the club a further £7 million, making the final cost of the stadium £23 million. On 18 July 2006, a statue of 1973 FA Cup Final winning manager Bob Stokoe was unveiled outside the stadium. At the end of season Football League awards, the Stadium of Light was named the Best Away Ground, with other contenders including Crewe Alexandra's Alexandra Stadium and Plymouth Argyle's Home Park. Sunderland celebrated the tenth anniversary of the stadium with a pre-season friendly against Juventus on 6 August 2007; the game was drawn 1–1.

Naming The Stadium

During construction, the stadium had not adopted an official name, and had been known colloquially as the "Wearside Stadium" and "New Roker Park". The name was eventually revealed as the Stadium of Light at a naming ceremony on 30 July 1997, hours before the opening game against Ajax. Speaking at the naming event, Bob Murray explained the inspiration for the name came from the Coal mining heritage of the region and the stadium's Monkwearmouth Colliery site : "For many years, miners at Wearmouth Colliery carried with them a Davy lamp as part of their working lives. Reflecting this tradition, the name allows the image of this light to shine forever."

 

To emphasize the fact, a statue of a miner's Davy lamp was located in front of the stadium's ticket office, adjacent to the stadium.

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