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Stadium History

When City were forced to move from their John O'Gaunts ground, they moved just a few hundred yards away to a site opposite side of Sincil Drain.

This was probably the same field that the Lindum club had hired in the 1880s and it was completely undeveloped. The cost of the move set the club back financially and was the main reason for the change to a limited company.

The first match at the new ground was a friendly against Gainsborough Trinity, and Woolwich Arsenal provided the opposition for the first Football League game which took place on 14 September 1895.

In the summer of 1896 a small uncovered stand was built at the South Park end, turnstiles were added, and the rope surrounding the pitch was replaced with wire. The ground was more fully developed between 1898 and 1902 with the help of the Working Men's Committee. Extensive banking was added around the field, and in the summer of 1899 a covered stand holding around 400 was built on the Sincil Bank side - this was known as the Working Men's Stand.

In 1901 another stand was built behind the South Park goal, with the existing structure moved to the south-east corner alongside the main grandstand. In 1902 the St Andrews stand along the eastern side was enlarged and moved back to allow a permanent cycling and athletics track to be laid down in front of it.

The Working Men's Committee made small improvements every summe, adding turnstiles, extra banking, and new dressing rooms with plunge and shower baths. In February 1908 a section of the stands on the St Andrews side was destroyed by a storm which uprooted the supports, with five spectators requiring hospital treatment.

By 1915 the ground consisted of three covered stands on the St Andrews, South Park, and Sincil Bank sides, with banking around the remaining areas to provide a better view for those who chose to stand up.

The ground survived the Great War intact, and when the club's finances improved in the mid-1920s further improvements were made. In 1925 a small shelter was built at the centre of the railway end, partly paid for by the supporters club which had established a fund to raise £1,200 to cover the whole of the north side of the ground, and most of the work was carried out by the Working Men's Committee.

The area under the South Park stand was also developed at this time with new offices for the secretary, a boardroom, and a gymnasium. A wooden fence was put up around the perimeter of the pitch which had previously been roped off. By the late 1920s there was clearly a need for major improvements to the ground, particularly to the grandstands which dated from the turn of the century, but the club's position as yearly tenants made the board reluctant to act.

In September 1929, the South Park stand was completely gutted by fire which also destroyed the offices and all the club records. A new structure seating 1,500 was erected within six weeks and was used for the first time for the visit of Carlisle United on 16 November.

Shortly afterwards the ground was purchased from Colonel Swann for £4,875. Ownership gave the directors the confidence to proceed with modernising the stadium and fundamental changes were made over the next few years.

In the summer of 1931, the covered area at the railway end was extended by adding a second small shelter, and terracing was laid down. In the following close season the St Andrews stand was demolished to be replaced by a new structure with a capacity of 2,250, and at the same time concrete terracing was laid down in front of both this and the South Park stand.

A decline in the club's finances prevented any further major developments, although in 1936 the Lincoln Imp Social Club was opened under the South Park stand to sell alcohol and refreshments, and it remained until war broke out in 1939.

Sincil Bank was requisitioned by the A.R.P. services for the duration of the Second World War, but despite the efforts of Alf Young at the volunteer work force it fell in to a state of disrepair. When peace returned money was readily available for improvements but resources were scarce.

Sufficient concrete blocks were obtained to replace the fencing around the pitch with a wall behind the two goals in 1945, and this was extended to the St Andrews and Sincil Bank sides twelve months later. in 1947 the A.R.P. cleansing station was converted to modern dressing rooms and the old wooden structure demolished and removed. The capacity of the ground was increased to 25,000 in 1948 when the Sincil Bank stand, which was in a poor state of repair, was demolished and the wood from it was used to create a bank of shale terracing.

From the 1950s the ground was developed further through the donations of the supporters club. Concrete terracing was laid down on the Sincil Bank side during the 1952/53 season, and by the end of the decade the 'Spion Kop' area in the north-east corner had been concreted over and covered with a shelter. Proposals by the club to build a new stand linking the St Andrews and South Park structure were discussed in detail in the mid-1950s but never came to fruition. The field at the rear of the St Andrews Stand was purchased in 1955 and this was used for training and as a venue for 'A' team fixtures.

Floodlighting was installed in 1962, again paid for by the supporters club. Two years later a social club was opened beneath the South Park stand, but the 1960s were generally a period of decline and financial crisis for the club. They began to emerge from this towards the end of the decade and the replayed League Cup tie against Derby County in November 1967 attracted a new record attendance of 23,196.

In September 1975 the wall behind the South Park goal collapsed during the League Cup match with Stoke, and this section of terracing was never used again. The original floodlights were replaced with a new and more powerful set in February 1977 with the old lights being sold to Spalding United.

Following a substantial loss in the 1981/82 season, the directors sold the ground to the City Council for £225,000 to ensure the future of League football in Lincoln. The original agreement was on a 25-year lease but this was extended to 125 years shortly after. The Safety of Sports Grounds Act of 1975 raised the profile of safety which became a top priority following the tragic fire at Bradford in May 1985.

With a ground dating from the 1930s, and two stands principally of timber construction, urgent work was needed at Sincil Bank. The South Park stand was closed to spectators for the 1985/86 campaign but was then reopened in the following season after the St Andrews stand was demolished in the summer of 1986. This was the prelude to the final period of redevelopment of the ground.

The first stage of this saw a new St Andrews stand seating 1,400 opened in November 1987. The South Park and railway ends were both demolished in the early months of 1990m and in August of the same year the Stacey West stand - named after two long serving City fans who died in the Bradford fire - was opened at the north end of the ground. A new South Park stand with 17 executive boxes was operational in the summer of 1992. The EGT Family stand appeared alongside the St Andrews stand in 1994, and the final stage of the redevelopment saw the completion of the 5,700 seat Linpave stand in March 1995 to replace the open terracing on the Sincil Bank side. A modern floodlighting system was also installed at this time. The total cost of rebuilding the ground amounted to around £3 million, with significant contributions coming from both the City Council and the Football Trust.

Sincil Bank became an all-seater stadium at the start of the 1999/2000 season when the only remaining terracing - in the Stacey West stand - was replaced by seats, meaning that the ground now has a capacity of over 10,000 and is arguably one of the best stadiums in lower league football.

In March 2000, Lincoln City Football Club decided to buy back the ground with the City Council agreeing to a knock-down sale price of £175,000, meaning that the Club could use the all-seater stadium as collateral as they sought to relieve another financial crisis.

Over the years the ground has hosted many different events including a visit from Queen Elizabeth II in June 1958, and a major pop concert in May 1966 featuring groups such as The Who, The Kinks and The Small Faces. Gainsborough Trinity used Sincil Bank on a couple of occasions around the turn of the century for Football League games when the Northolme was unavailable, whilst local cricket and football finals, boxing, wrestling, athletics, cycling, grass tennis, and American football have all taken place at one time or another. However, perhaps the most unusual of all the events were the sheep dog trials held as part of the 'Holidays at Home' week in the summer of 1943.

© Lincoln City FC - The Official History by Ian & Donald Nannestad