David Hall bids a fond farewell to Christie Park, the home of Morecambe Football Club for nearly eighty-three years.
This is not just an end of season match with nothing riding on it, far from it. Aldershot and Morecambe are in the mix for a play-off place and the coveted chance to play League One football. And this will also be the last league game played at Christie Park.
From next season, they are moving to pastures new. The newly built Globe (I hear he is a local lad) Arena will be ready for League One (or Two, mind!) football next season. The move is money motivated. They are putting in five private boxes, which is five more than at Christie Park. A directors lounge and a sponsors lounge. To compliment the executive love-in, there is also a hospitality suite.
So that is the sponsors and directors covered what about paying fans? Well the capacity isn’t increasing which is understandable, as the highest gate so far (22 home games) was the 3335 which saw Sol Campbell play his one and only game for Notts County. So the need for a bigger ground isn’t needed. However, there is the option to build on if needs be. The facilities will obviously improve – but that is it.
The local community are not left out either with facilities for football, hockey, basketball, netball, boxing and even a gymnasium. All for a fee, but at least they are not forgotten. After all, they had to replace the football club, Westgate Wanderers, which had the land before Morecambe decided they wanted it for their new ground way back when.
Mr J.B Christie bequeathed the ground to the club in 1927 on the grounds that the land would be used for sports and recreational facilities. Morecambe sold the land to Sainsburys in 2008, and I don’t think they have any plans to build a play park next to their supermarket.
The sale of the land averted a financial crisis at Morecambe Football Club, in January 2008 they broke the wage cap, spending more than 60% of their turnover on wages. A transfer embargo was in place and players leaving on loan. Sainsburys money came at the right time.
What makes the move more puzzling, is that the club in 2006 had planning permission to “build a new stand on its site comprising of sponsors’ facilities, conference rooms and offices”
Morecambe pulled out all the stops on the day. A celebration before the tension of a play-off for the play-off’s. They had a marquee on the pitch for a ‘meet and greet’ with former players. They had brass bands, and a ‘guest singer’ who was out sung by the third biggest crowd in Christie Park history.
Half an hour before the game they paraded there legends. Players like Scunthorpe’s Gary Thompson, Peterborough’s Joe Lewis, Ex Man United Michael Twiss, and Ben Lavelle, the man who made eight debuts, a club record, and my former PE teacher at school.
The game ended 1-0 with a classy strike from Garry Hunter in the 72nd minute – propelling Morecambe to their highest league placing in history, 4th and another game at Christie Park against Dagenham & Redbridge.
Sainsburys will have to wait….