To compile a section to do justice to the history of Central Park would warrant a website of it’s own. For supporters who haven’t already bought a copy, ‘Central Park Years’ is a must have for any Wigan fan and is the source of the information you find here.
Supporters said farewell to Central Park on Sunday 5th September 1999 after a match where the Wigan side that day beat local rivals St Helens 28-20. 96 years and 364 days after the first game against Batley was played, the most famous Rugby League ground in the world closed it’s doors for the final time.
In what was dubbed ‘Farewell Sunday’, 18,179 supporters crammed in to pay their tributes to the famous venue (and of course watch the incidental Wigan v Saints game), many donning the perimeter with banners containing hand painted slogans. There were tears and laughter but the realisation was that following the game that kicked off at 4pm that summers afternoon, none would set foot on the terraces, as they knew them, again.
The visit of St. Helens on 27th March 1959 produced Central Park’s all time record attendance of 47,747 which is still a record for any league game in this country. Prices for stand seats that day varied from four shillings (20 pence) to 5 shillings (25 pence) with the ground admission costing 3s-6d (17 and a 1/2 pence) all of which bought gate receipts of £4,804. Wigan went on to win the game 19-14 after holding off a Saints comback despite having lead 14-0.
Let There be Light
The Wigan Directors had first considered floodlights as far back as 1951 only to be told that they would need special permission from the Rugby League to play matches using them. The topic was raised several time before 1967 when, due to the ineligabilty to play in the BBC2 Floodlit Trophy, they finally decided to act and commissioned plans for a suitable installation. The 120 feet high pylons were construced in the summer of 1967 and the installation was completed by September.
The lighting scheme which incorporated the turnstiles, toilets, stands an exits costed almost £17,500 but were said to be the best in Rugby League. To celebrate the switch of the new lights, Wigan met Bradford Northern in a special challenge match.
Wigan RL became sub-tenants of Springfield Park, which they shared with Wigan United AFC , playing their first game there on 14 September 1901. On this occassion a crowd of 4000 saw them beat Morecambe 12-0. During this season Wigan won the Lancashire Senior Competition.
Designed by architect R.T. Johnson, Springfield Park cost £16,000 to build, and was owned by The Wigan Trotting and Athletic Grounds Company Ltd.
Wigan’s record crowd at the ground was 10000 on 19 March 1902, when they beat Widnes. The last match took place on 28 April, 1902 when they defeated the Rest of Lancashire Senior Competition.
In 1876, the club was suffering from financial difficulties as well as player recruitment problems. All this led to a merger with Upholland F.C. and the formation of The Wigan and District Football Club.
In 1877 after approaching Wigan Cricket Club for permission, the new club played it’s games at the their ground situated in Prescott Street, off Frog Lane. Unfortunately the time spent at Prescott Street was short lived as the venture was unsuccessful and within eighteen months, the club folded.
Prescott Street was bounded by the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway’s Wigan to Southport line at the Pavilion End, a rope walk which dwarfed the one small standm and Prescott Street itself. The grounds capacity was 7000, with club record receipts of £320 being taken.
The Wigan club first formed as Wigan FC in by members of Wigan Cricket Club, after a meeting at the Royal Hotel on 21 November, 1872. Back then they played their games at Folly Field, which adjoined Upper Dicconson Street.
The Rugby club’s first match took place on 30th November when members played against each other at Folly Field. After a series of trial and practice matches amongst themselves, they ventured to Warrington on January 18, 1873 to play their first competitive match. It ended in a draw and the Wigan club had established itself in the rugby world.
At the end of the first season, the treasurer declared, at the first annual meeting, that the Wigan bank balance sood at £2.0s. 7 1/2d (£2.03)