The b2net Stadium

Ground No. 215
Visited - Saturday 7th August 2010
Result - Chesterfield 2-1 Barnet
Competition - npower League Two
Attendance - 6431

“The Dawn of a New Age” announced the title of the programme for the visit of Barnet to the b2net Stadium in what would be the new grounds first ever competitive fixture. Having been at Saltergate two months previously for “The End of an Era” it felt like it, the club having gone through a transformation during the summer, with a new badge and outlook to go along with the shiny new ground.

Saltergate was without doubt one of the most traditional grounds left in the country, with its rusting Main Stand, pitched roof kop, four corner floodlights, and packed in terrace houses surrounding it, so for the nostalgic amongst us, it was everything you want, but there surely wasn’t anyone who could argue that the ground had a future if the club wanted to keep their league place, let alone progress on from it. With its run down facilities and restricted views, then it was a ground of its time, one where hosting a match every other Saturday was all that was required of it, and rightly or wrongly, that time has well and truly gone with the need for raising non-matchday revenue a key to success in the modern game.

The notion of leaving Saltergate was first tabled way back in the 1980s, but in 2005 it finally became a reality when together with the council, the club identified a site a mile or so away on the A61 Sheffield Road where the Dema glassworks had once stood. It was a bit of a coup as it happened, as the club were looking to move to the Wheeldon Mill greyhound track on the other side of town (amongst other sites), having discounted the land of the former factory as being too expensive to purchase. Chesterfield councils desire to regenerate the area though was a driving factor for a new community stadium, and so unlike other towns where councils have outrightly hindered clubs, then the new stadium was born.

Clearance of the 25 acre site was slow, with the land needing decontaminating, and it was July 2009 before construction started on the stadium. Once the largest manufacturer of domestic glass in England, nothing was left of the former Dema works, except for a small gate in the perimeter wall where some of the 3000 employees who once worked there might have made their way through to start a shift.

Plans for the new ground it has to be said didn’t look exactly inspiring to perhaps anyone other than those who had had to put up with the facilities of Saltergate, with another Shrewscolchesterbury on the horizon, but after stopping by on a recce in May, then in person it looked much better, so I was looking forward to going back once it had finally been completed.

For the opening day of the season, I had intended to be at Noose Lane to see Willenhall take on Alvechurch in the Midland Alliance, but the lure of a new ground was too much to resist, and on the morning of the match, quickly checking the train timetables, I made the change of plans to head up to Derbyshire instead.

The journey northwards went by quickly, but on arriving into Chesterfield, the weather that had dogged my two previous trips to Saltergate returned, with it quickly changing from a beautiful summers day to torrential rain that saw shoppers rushing for cover inside shop doorways. I had planned to go up to the old ground first, but with the rain, and time passing then I decided to grab a bite to eat and head up to the new ground instead, recognising the route up Sheffield Road fairly well from back in May.

Unlike many new developments, the first plus point to notice of the b2net is that it’s not stuck out in the middle of nowhere, but instead sits in the heart of a busy residential area. Even with a new Tesco next door and a number of retail units in the vicinity, it makes such a welcome difference for a ground to be at the heart of its community, instead of rejected and pushed out as far away as possible. Surrounded by numerous pubs and shops, and a 20-25 minute walk from the town/station, then it’s a better location than many long established sites that older grounds sit on.

The second welcome bonus of the ground is also quickly evident on arrival, and that’s the build quality. Just from walking around the outside you can see that it’s not just a tin shed and breeze block job, but all four stands have been built with good quality brickwork, and an appealing colour scheme for the cladding, with the dark blue and white paint, and red brick being vaguely reminiscent of Ibrox. 

The main buzz before the game centred around the reception area, where the ticket office and club shop were located adjacent to. This is the one downside to the ground if there is one, with the ticket office merely a couple of windows in the side of the stand, leaving fans to get wet in the rain. With only three open, and ticket only access to the ground then queues quickly built up, which had the secondary effect of blocking the entrance to the club shop. It’s a common arrangement at new grounds, and one that really ought to be thought out a bit more for a better experience (which is what these new builds are supposedly billed up as). That aside though, the ground really does look smart from the outside, particularly on the far side with the glass frontage of the East Stand where the community centre is located.

Having had a look around and been ripped off for a commemorative programme at £10 then I made my way up to the Derby Tup and a revisit to a great little pub that has plenty of real ales on for those who like proper beer! After that, then it was time to wander back, meeting up with Mark and Ryan Watterson and their friend Michael (see Ryan’s review of the game here) for a chat, before heading in. I’d intended on sitting behind the goal beforehand, but with tickets nearly sold out in that section, then I’d chosen to go in the East Stand instead, where a better view could be had.

As with the outside of the ground, facilities inside are good quality with the home fans now treated to the advancement of indoor toilets! The ground consists of four separate stands, all single tiered and 18 rows high. It’s noticeable how close to the pitch they are, giving a closed in, homely feel that most new stadiums lack, making a huge difference in comparison to say Shrewsbury and the windswept, openness of the New Pornstar Greenhous Meadow. The two ends are of similar design, both with a low roof that seemed to help with the atmosphere that both sets of fans created throughout the game. The two sides are similar, but for curved roofs with the Main Stand having a row of executive boxes to its rear and a police control box tacked on to its side. The four corner floodlight pylons, despite being modern lights on a pole, help add to the impression of a football stadium, again unlike at Shrewsbury.

It wasn’t just me in attendance for adding this to the 92, Martyn, a Colchester fan was here as well, having made the long journey up from Essex, and after having a chat with him, it was eventually time for the game to get underway. 

Barnet started the brighter of the two, forcing a couple of early corners, but with Jack Lester and ex-Wolves man Craig Davies up front, then the hosts were always going to be dangerous, and on the break they showed their capabilities with a few let-offs for the visitors until they took the lead in the 23rd minute, Dwayne Mattis being the first to score at the ground with a tap-in from close range. Barnet were undeterred though, and Tommy Lee (not of Motley Crue fame) was kept busy up until half time.

In the second half the game evened out a bit more as the Spireites started to settle, and just before the half hour mark Jack Lester, playing his 100th game for the club made it 2-0, with a turn and shot to double the lead. Barnet became more determined with this, and pressured the home side for the remainder of the game. They got one back in the 70th minute, with a fine long range effort from Glenn Poole who curled it home from a good 25 yards out, leaving even the home fans clapping, but it wasn’t enough, and despite debutant Craig Davies getting his marching orders for a rash challenge, Chesterfield held on to record three points.

Afterwards, and meeting up with Mark and co. again, then I eventually made my way away, popping into Saltergate on the way back to town, with the weather having changed back to beautiful sunshine, before heading back to the station and home.

Overall it had been a good day and I’d been glad to choose here instead of a return trip to Willenhall. The ground is probably the best quality new build in the country, and all of the negative aspects that newly built stadiums seem to suffer from appear to have been answered. Indeed, throughout the game I continually felt that it didn’t really seem like a new stadium at all, but instead a traditional ground, with ‘that’ sort of feel to it, which can only be good. If there is one word of warning to the home fans though, then the last time I saw Barnet on the opening day, their opponents ended up being relegated to the conference, so despite the victory, perhaps the first season in their new home might not be all plain sailing!

Welcome to the b2net Stadium

Rear of the West Stand

Main Reception

The Club Shop

Rear of the Kop

Rear of the East Stand

Rear of the North Stand

Last piece of the Dema Works Factory

The Kop

The East Stand

The North Stand

The West Stand

Ready for a new era

The Kop

The West Stand

The North Stand

The b2net Stadium Panoramic 1
(click here for full size picture)

The b2net Stadium Panoramic 2
(click here for full size picture)

The b2net Stadium Panoramic 3
(click here for full size picture)

The b2net Stadium Panoramic 4
(click here for full size picture)

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