IT'S hard to believe it's been 20 years since Saints moved from The Dell to St Mary's Stadium.

But today the Echo is looking further back - to when a stadium at Stoneham was being seriously considered.

But it certainly wasn't the first plan for a new stadium.

Both Western Esplanade (1942) and Wide Lane (late 1970s) were proposed - with capacities as high as 40,000 suggested for the latter.


It was feared that the Taylor Report, an inquiry into the Hillsborough Stadium Disaster, would force the Saints to limit The Dell to just 12,000 capacity. This meant the new stadium was an absolute necessity.

The Saints were managing to get by with The Dell's 15,200 capacity made possible by redevelopment in 1994, but a 20 per cent cut in spectator numbers would have been hard on the club.

Daily Echo:

The plan at Western Esplanade in 1942

It was feared that with such a small capacity, ticket prices would increase to such an extent that only a small number of fans would be able to afford to see the team.


It was a concern that Saints may have fallen out of the top flight due to being unable to compete with richer clubs and their much bigger capacities.

The Daily Echo even started a campaign and petition to show how much support the plans had, with full details of the scheme being published in August 1991.

Daily Echo:

Part of the plans for the stadium in Stoneham

But there were issues over the land at Stoneham – it was on the border of Southampton and Eastleigh

A total of three councils were involved - Southampton, Eastleigh and Hampshire and this made an agreement on the plans hard to come by.

The plans were called Stadium 2000, with the number referring to the date the complex was due to open by.

Daily Echo:

The area in Stoneham for the proposed stadium

After years of wrangling and arguments, Southampton City Council were able to offer disused land which used to be gas works to the club for a new stadium - although there simply wasn't enough room there for all the extra sports facilities and commercial opportunities to fund it all.

So instead, the capacity was upped to 32,000 and the £32m St Mary's Stadium opened in August 2001, with The Dell becoming flats and the Stoneham site staying as open land.

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