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York City press conference: Plans announced to commemorate Bootham Crescent

Dom Smith outlines York City FC's plans to commemorate their former ground Bootham Crescent

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York City FC and Historic England have shared their plans to commemorate the football club’s former ground, Bootham Crescent.

The city’s major football club have played there since 1932, but move into their brand-new stadium, the LNER Community Stadium, late this month. Historic England are a public body sponsored by the Department for Digital, Culture and Sport who seek to protect and renovate listed buildings of significance and notable landmarks.

In a press conference on Tuesday in which Nouse Sport was involved, York City’s stadium development director Ian McAndrew, season ticket-holder Steve Saxton and Historic England’s Jason Wood spoke to the media about plans to recognise the ground which York have finally left after 89 years there.

Wood said about the project, “The main part of the legacy plan is to preserve a section of the stand and the tunnel which is below it. This tunnel is a unique survivor at any English ground. It was a means by which — in the early years of the ground’s history — you could change ends as a fan at half-time. We thought that was an interesting feature of the ground — and also the tunnel was used as an air raid shelter in the Second World War. From a heritage perspective, that was the place we felt we would focus our legacy.

“Because of that we decided also to suggest a memorial garden be erected around the base of this terrace, so that there will be a permanent place for people to visit in the future to commemorate all those people whose ashes have been interred in the ground, and indeed fans whose ashes may yet want to be interred in the future.”

McAndrew stated how York City are eager to right the wrongs of leaving the stadium they called home before moving to Bootham Crescent. “We came in 1932 from Fulfordgate — and there is nothing [to commemorate the former ground] at Fulfordgate other than just the name of a road.”

Although the club are going much further this time round, road names will still play a part. “The local authority has agreed that it is appropriate that the street is named after a player. That’s got to go through a formal system yet but everyone’s on board doing it,” stated McAndrew.

Meanwhile, Wood mentioned that “The centre circle also acts as a […] means of orientation.” Recognising where it used to be situated “is quite important”, he admitted.

He added, “It’s important that we don’t forget the emotional attachment that York City fans have for this place. Even after football grounds have long been demolished, there is still a pilgrimage to these sites.”

“Moving to the new stadium wasn’t just something that cropped up. It cropped up as something we had to do,” explained stadium development director McAndrew. “From the very start, we said we have to leave something behind, more than just a nod to the fact that Bootham Crescent was there, because we know so many people have so many memories. It’s almost like two projects in one.

“I would imagine their scheme is an 18-month to two-year scheme,” he said about the developers’ timeframes for the project. He and Wood added there had been no mention of costs yet, as that depends largely on the income the club receives from selling the land once (the majority of) the stadium is demolished.

Season-ticket holder Steve Saxton, who first went to a York City match as a seven-year-old in 1971, reminisced about his personal highlights of the ground.

“Everybody remembers the happy times of beating Manchester United on aggregate, Man City in a league game, and Arsenal of course, [and] the draw with Liverpool — everybody remembers those,” he said.

“There’s an obvious sadness but, let’s be honest, it’s well past its sell-by date. But we’re moving to a fantastic new modern stadium. A lot of clubs move, and it just becomes a token gesture. [I’m] very happy with the proposals that have been put forward.”

When asked by Nouse Sport about what he’d like to see the team achieve that they never managed at Bootham Crescent, Saxton was in an optimistic mood. “The obvious answer is at least promotion back to the league above, which I think is the absolute minimum most York City supporters expect of the team given its history. I think we’re well on the way to achieving that. Slightly longer-term, you ask yourself, where realistically can a club like that get to? There’s no reason why York couldn’t get back into the football league. How far could it go? Maybe mid-table in League 1.”

The stadium move is a start. But the club realises that recognising its history is just as important.

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