We went to West Bromwich Albion (Birmingham) on the 2 January 2016. It was my first time to the Hawthorns and it looks like a great ground. Unfortunately we lost 2-1.
West Bromwich Albion have been playing at The Hawthorns for more than 100 years.
The Black Country venue was the first Football League ground to be built in the 20th Century and was opened on September 3, 1900 after construction work lasted just four months.
The club’s move to The Hawthorns came when the lease expired on the old Stoney Lane ground. It was sited on the old Hawthorns Estate, and hawthorn bushes had been grown there in the past, so the name was especially appropriate.
The initial capacity was 35,500 because Albion only had a 14-year lease on the ground. It wasn’t until 1913 the club bought the freehold for £5,350. With that secured, development work really got into gear.
Such was the pace of change, by 1924, the capacity was up to a massive 65,000, though the terracing all round the ground wasn’t finished until 1931, when seating was also put into the wing stands. In 1957 the club erected floodlights, which cost £18,000. The first game played under lights was against Chelsea on September 18, which ended in a 1-1 draw.
The ground as we’ve known it in recent years began to take shape in 1964, with the building of the East Stand on the site of the old Handsworth Stand. The East Stand quickly became known as the ‘Rainbow’ because of the 4,000 brightly painted seats which replaced the old terracing at a cost of £40,000.
The Rainbow side of the ground was home to the next major development too, when the terracing in front of it was replaced with Albion’s first executive boxes, 14 in total, plus 750 paddock seats in 1976/77, at the same time as the terracing at both ends of the ground was improved.
The next big change came about with the Hillsborough disaster, which meant the club needed to move towards the creation of an all-seater stadium. The terracing at the Birmingham Road and Smethwick Ends was replaced by two new stands, completed in 1995 at a cost of £4.15 million, though roughly half of that figure was funded by the Football Trust. The all-seater venue was officially opened with a game against Bristol City on Boxing Day, 1995, which Albion won 1-0.
The transformation also meant a small reduction in The Hawthorns’ capacity to 26,272. In summer 2011 the club invested in a new state-of-the-art pitch and also evened out its gradient. It meant from the beginning of the 2011/12 campaign, The Hawthorns’ playing surface met all of the criteria required for UEFA’s highest standard of pitches.
Further development in the summer of 2014 increased the stadium capacity to 26,850, with added seats made available in the Smethwick End due to the movement of the police control room.