The 442-seater main stand at the Gallagher Stadium
|Former names||James Whatman Way|
|Location||James Whatman Way, Maidstone, England, United Kingdom, ME14 1LQ|
|Broke ground||January 2007|
|Opened||14 July 2012|
|Owner||Maidstone United Ground Ltd.|
|Operator||Maidstone United F.C.|
|Surface||3G Artificial Turf|
|Construction cost||£2.8 million|
|Project manager||Prime Group|
|General contractor||Gallagher Group|
|Capacity||2,226 (442 seats)|
|Record attendance||2,305 (vs Horsham, 27 April 2013)|
James Whatman Way, currently known as the Gallagher Stadium, is a 2,300 capacity football stadium in Maidstone, Kent, England. It is home to Isthmian League Division One South club Maidstone United. Full construction of the stadium began in September 2011 and was completed in July 2012, with the stadium officially opening on 14 July 2012 when the club hosted Brighton & Hove Albion in a friendly.
3G Artificial Pitch
Rather than the traditional choice of grass, Maidstone were the first English team to build a stadium with third generation artificial turf. The surface has attained a FIFA two star rating, the highest possible grading which puts it on a par with top tier artificial pitches such as the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.
The reasons for going with the synthetic turf were threefold, the first being to eliminate match postponements caused by waterlogging and freezing conditions, the second so that the pitch can be hired out, bringing in vital funds (around £120,000 to £150,000 profit per year), and thirdly so that the stadium can be a hub for all the club's youth and community teams. The pitch is currently hosts the home matches of the club's first team, ladies, reserves, under 18s and under 16s, is used for training among a large number of the club's teams, and in addition is hired out to a local disability league, a six-a-side league and other organisations for wider community use.
A major downside of the 3G pitch is that so far the club has only gained permission to use the pitch in the Isthmian League the FA Trophy and the qualifying round of the FA Cup. The club have yet to receive permission to use the pitch for matches in the Football Conference (Conference National / North & South) and the FA Cup proper (1st round onwards). As a result of this, promotion to the Football Conference will not be possible until permission is granted from the league or the 3G turf is replaced with grass. In a bid to overcome these hurdles, Maidstone United head up a group of professional clubs looking to promote the merits of 3G surfaces called '3G4US'.
Upon seeing his side play on the surface, Brighton & Hove Albion manager Gus Poyet described the pitch as "magnificent" and "perfection". After taking part in a Charity match at the stadium, West Ham United legend Tony Cottee described the 3G facility as a "great idea", citing that the surface's ability to deal with adverse weather conditions meant it could be the way forward for non-league clubs.
There are stands on the north, east and south sides of the pitch.
Main Stand: The main stand is situated on the eastern side of the ground. It includes 442 spectator seats, a press area, media room and two executive lounges.
North Stand: The north end provides covered terracing for up to 500 people.
South Stand: The south end of the ground provides a covered terrace for up to 250 supporters.
The southeastern part of the stadium houses the main building which holds the club's office/reception, the Spitfire Lounge (clubhouse/cafe), classrooms for the club's academy side, the boardroom, changing rooms, a physio room and storage rooms.
The turnstiles are situated at the south end of the stadium. The club shop and mobile catering and bar units are situated at south end of the ground on matchdays.
The stadium's floodlights are erected upon four pylons at each corner of the stadium.
If and when expansion is required in the future, the stadium capacity can be increased with the construction of permanent spectator facilities on the east and north sides of the ground . The south end of the ground is also able to house more modular terracing (the terracing currently installed at the stadium).
It was announced on 2 January 2012 that the Gallagher Group, a building, civil engineering, quarrying and property business who were the main contractors in the building of the stadium, had signed a five-year deal for the naming rights of the stadium, worth £150,000.
Prior to the club selling its naming rights, the stadium was known as James Whatman Way (often shortened to Whatman Way), the name of the road the stadium is on. Some supporters, especially those against the corporate sponsorship of stadium names, still refer to the stadium by its original name.
After reforming in 1992 (the original Maidstone United sold their stadium in 1988 and moved into Dartford's ground, a move that eventually saw the club go out of business), Maidstone played in the Kent County League Division 4 with their home games taking place where the original clubs old training pitch had been situated, at London Road, near Allington. The club worked their way through the Kent County League and were promoted to the Kent League Premier Division in 2001; however the current ground was nowhere near Kent League standards – so the club elected to ground share with Sittingbourne (where they remained until 2009 when they opted to ground share with Ashford before returning to Sittingbourne for the 2011–12 season) while they tried to engineer a move to their preferred site for a new stadium in Maidstone at James Whatman Way. Numerous legal disputes and even a colony of Great Crested Newts on the site delayed the clubs attempts to get permission to build a ground there, however in 2004 the club finally made its first steps towards returning to their home town when an application for planning permission to build a stadium at James Whatman Way was unanimously accepted.
However, no real work could begin until the lease to acquire the ground from its owners the Ministry of Defence was signed. After yet more red tape was surpassed the lease was finally signed in March 2006. Despite Maidstone now having the green light to start construction, there were questions over the clubs ability to finance the stadium and almost a year passed before some preliminary work took place in January 2007. No significant inroads were made however, and soon the site became overgrown and disused. By the summer of 2008, with no movement at Whatman Way since the initial work and Maidstone suffering financial problems, it was decided the club were unable to fund the ground themselves and a bid was placed for a £1.2 million grant from the Football Foundation to build the stadium. However the bid was turned down, and after this the new stadium took a back seat as all funds were focussed on keeping the club afloat.
A change of club ownership in October 2010 saw a renewed attempt to move to the stadium. A new company, named Maidstone United Ground Ltd, was formed to deal solely with stadium matters, and by the summer of 2011 £1 million had been raised towards building the ground, and the lands freehold had been purchased outright from the Ministry of Defence. It was at this time it was decided to go ahead with the construction of the stadium.
After some preliminary work taking place throughout August 2011, full construction of the stadium began on 26 September 2011. The stadium's floodlights were fully installed by late January 2012, and at the start of February the club was informed it had secured a £150,000 grant from the Football Foundation to help finance the build. The terracing at the north and south ends of the ground was installed on the 12 and 13 April 2012. The laying of the stadium's artificial 3G pitch began on 30 April 2012 and was completed by 2 May 2012. Within a matter of weeks the club's youth and community teams began training on the pitch whilst construction of the stadium continued. The installation of the seats in the main stand began on 29 May 2012. The stadium was fully completed on July 13, 2012.
- The first game at the stadium was a friendly against Brighton & Hove Albion on 14 July 2012, which Brighton won 5-0. The first goal at the stadium was scored by Craig Mackail Smith.
- The first goal at the stadium for Maidstone United was scored by Shaun Welford in a 1-0 win against Dagenham & Redbridge on 17 July 2012.
- The first competitive match at the stadium was an Isthmian League Division One South match against Walton & Hersham on August 18, 2012, a game which Walton & Hersham won 5-4. The first competitive goal at the stadium was scored by Phil Williams of Walton, while the first Maidstone United scorer was Paul Booth.
- The first FA Cup match at the stadium was between Maidstone United and Colliers Wood United, a match that Maidstone won 4-1. The first FA Cup goal was scored by Mario Embalo of Colliers Wood, while the first Maidstone goal was scored by Ade Olorunda. The game was also Maidstone's first competitive victory at the stadium.
- The first FA Trophy match at the stadium was between Maidstone United and Whitehawk. Maidstone won the game 3-2, with the first goal being scored by Tim Olorunda.
- The club's stadium's record attendance was set when a crowd of 2,305 saw Maidstone United play their final game of the 2012-13 season against Horsham on 27 April 2013 knowing a win, coupled with a Dulwich Hamlet defeat would see them crowned champions.
The stadium is situated on a former Royal Engineers drilling site at James Whatman Way, close to Maidstone's town centre and next to the River Medway. It is also a short walk from the Fremlin Walk shopping centre and the 18-acre (73,000 m2) Whatman Park, and is adjacent to both the Invicta Rowing Club and the Kent Library and History Centre.
The site is in the heart of the county town and close to two motorways, the M20 and the M2. It is under a five minutes drive from the M20 junction 6 and is ten minutes from the M2 junction 3. The ground is also a five minute walk from Maidstone East railway station (Maidstone East Line), and is also within walking distance of both Maidstone Barracks and Maidstone West stations (Medway Valley Line).
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