In this picture series, we take a look at how certain sections of the Vale Park ground have developed over the years. This time it’s the turn of the Lorne Street stand, which is still under construction…
A grand centrepiece – the original design
The original plans for Vale Park included a main stand on the Lorne St side, containing the dressing rooms, club offices and a wrap-around roof design.
The original entrance plan can be seen on the middle of this image. However, lack of funds meant this work was never undertaken.
1950 – a somewhat less grandiose affair
Instead of the elegant lines of the original plan, Vale Park was opened with a much more sparse Lorne St design. Here are the tunnel and club entrance:
1970s and 1980s – a largely open terrace
This image is from the early 1980s.
1998 – ambitious plans dashed…
In 1998, Chairman Bill Bell announced his most ambitious plan yet with the news of a brand-new Lorne St stand. The other stands at Vale Park had largely been adding seats (the Railway) to terracing, or adding both seats and new roofs to existing terraces (the Bycars and Hamil ends) but the Lorne St stand was a far more ambitious affair.
Announcing plans for 48 executive boxes (more than the old Wembley stadium) and the complete demolition of the existing Lorne St structure, the Lorne St development was a fair more ambitious project. Initially, things looked good as Vale banked a club record £2m from Wimbledon for Gareth Ainsworth and the profit was ploughed into the new project.
Here are the plans as they were announced in the Port Vale match programme:
Here is an enlarged version of the text:
However, a combination of the Bosman Ruling (causing Vale to miss out on any more lucrative transfer fees), the loss of canny manager John Rudge, infrastructure problems (in particular mineshafts that caused the budget to spiral upwards) and the original over-ambitious plans caused the project to stall.
The steel frame was put in place as these images show:
When administration removed Bell from office, this was the sorry site that greeted new owners Valiant 2001:
Valiant 2001’s charter contained a pledge to provide £400,000 towards improving the pitch and “completing the Lorne Street stand.” It will be no surprise to many fans that the board were unable to keep that promise.
In defence of Valiant 2001, their priority was to stablise the club. With attendances nowhere near Vale Park’s capacity, the completion of the Lorne Street was therefore a low priority and work stalled.
However, in 2005, Chairman Bill Bratt announced a link-up with Stoke-on-Trent city Council and a £2.5m loan was agreed. The board insisted that the money would help to complete the stand but although some work was completed – notably the completion of work on the roof and the construction of an Enterprise Centre, the stand still remained half-built.
The lull – the years of an unfinished stand
For over two decades, the Lorne Street stand, sadly, still remained unfinished. Just half of the stand was seated.
In 2012, a statue of club legend Roy Sproson was unveiled outside the main entrance.
The club’s main entrance.
The clock (above) from the 1950’s stand was added to the newly redesigned structure and in 2019 some additional seating was added to the unfinished section (see below):
2020 – a possible closing chapter
Under new owners Carol and Kevin Shanahan, relationships with fans and local businesses improved. One result of this was the re-emergence of celebrity supporter, pop star Robbie Williams. The club announced a charity concert to take place at the stadium in the summer of 2020. As part of the safety requirements, seats were to be put into the unfinished half of the stand – which should mean that after a 22 year wait, the stand would be fully seated. However, a problem with the concourse remained. The club had installed a players’ gym in there and extensive work would be required if the concourse were to be revamped. Until that happened, that section of the stand would remain empty of fans during future seasons. Enter the Official Supporters Club who started a campaign in 2020 to raise the £100,000 required to fit out the concourse. Should they succeed, the Lorne Street stand will finally be completed.
More pictorial guides to Vale Park
This is part of a four part series – why not check out our other features below: