CURRENT HAMPDEN, 1981 to date
With the Tory government reneging on their promised cash the outlook for Hampden looked bleak. The club had no access to the levels of cash required to upgrade the stadium, and for a time the prospect of Hampden closing and the club upgrading Lesser Hampden, with the rest of the land being sold off, was a real possibility.
However, the club was not going to give up with a fight, and various improvements were undertaken to ensure that the stadium did not fall too far behind the standard required. The North Stand, now a ramshackle structure, was demolished, and all the ash terracing was concreted over. Undersoil heating with 23 miles of piping was installed, the enclosures in front of the South Stand were filled in and the seating at the front of the stand extended. The West Stand was turned into an 11,200 seat stand.
By now, UEFA had stipulated that stadiums used in the qualifying rounds for the 1994 World Cup should be played in all seater stadiums, and Scotland's qualifying games were played at Ibrox. In April 1992, following an offer from the government to provide £3.5 million, provided that amount was matched by the National Stadium Committee, it was announced that a £12 million scheme to roof and seat the East and North stand was to be the first stage of the redevelopment of Hampden.
Work commenced in June 1992 and was completed on schedule (and on budget) in 1993. The North and East Stands now catered for 20,000 spectators, and the approaches to the stadium had also been upgraded to avoid the rivers of mud that prevailed on rainy days. The stadium reopened with a goalless draw against Holland in February 1994.
That was only half the job, and now thoughts turned to the re-roofing of the West Stand and the replacement of the South Stand. The advent of the National Lottery in 1994, and their fund for Millenium projects, looked like the best chance of getting the funds required.
In anticipation of being awarded funds, the old South Stand was demolished in late 1996. In March 1997 it was confirmed that the club had funding commitments of £37.45 million, with the Millennium Commission the largest contributor. The balance was to be made up mainly through a debenture issue, sponsorship and other grants from various bodies.
Building work commenced later in 1997, and the framework for the new South Stand rose quickly, with the stadium due to open in March 1999. However, as this deadline drew closer it became clear that the stadium project was overrunning, and it took round the clock working to ensure that the stadium would be ready in time for that year's Scottish Cup Final in May.
The stadium eventually opened on Friday 14th May with an all stars eleven against a Queen's Park old crocks team. Poor weather curtailed the crowd, but the stadium had been given the "dry run" it needed before the Scottish Cup final the following week.
The first hint that the project to rebuild the West and South stands was in trouble came in the summer of 1999. The main building contractors, McAlpine, had not been fully paid for their work and this plunged Hampden and Queen's Park into nine months of crisis which almost saw the closure of both.
The dispute dragged on and in January 2000 Queen's Park placed themselves into administration to avoid receivership, which would have meant the automatic loss of their league membership. In March 2000, with Queen's Park less than 48 hours away from going out of business, a deal was reached which involved the SFA taking over management of the stadium for 20 years, with an option for a further 20 years if they wished, with Queen's Park retaining ownership of the stadium and its environs and the right to continue to play their matches at the stadium.
At the inevitable parliamentary enquiry, Queen's Park took most of the flak, some of it deserved, while despite not having put a penny into the rebuilding project the SFA were portrayed as white knights, hardly an objective view, and it's a pity that the parliamentary committee didn't take more interest in the part played by Sam Galbraith his Scottish Office officials .
It is interesting that an overspend of around 10% on a £60 million project drew such vehement criticism from politicians, who were impervious to the Scottish Parliament project which exceeded a £400 million bill against a original estimate of £40 million. Of course, that was no fault of the politicians either.
However, the stadium and Queen's were saved, and Hampden was awarded the UEFA Champions League Final in May 2002, where Real Madrid defeated Bayer Leverkusen 2-1, and this was followed by the UEFA Cup Final between Sevilla and Espanyol in 2007, Sevilla winning on penalties following a 2-2 draw after 120 minutes.
Some minor matches from the 2012 London Olympics were played at Hampden, and in November 2013 Queen's Park decamped to Airdrie to play their home games in order to allow Hampden to be converted to an athletics stadium for the Commonwealth Games the following summer.
Queen's Park returned to their home on 2nd January 2015 following the reinstatement of the ground to a football stadium, with the next major event at Hampden scheduled to be matches in the 2021 European Championships, postponed from 2020 due to the Covid 19 pandemic.
By then it is likely that Queen's Park will be playing their home games at a revamped Lesser Hampden permanently, following the sale of the Hampden Park to the SFA in August 2020.
This sale followed a protracted process where the SFA threatened to play their major games at Murrayfield instead of Hampden unless Hampden was sold to them. Playing major games at Murrayfield meant that Queen's would be left with millions of pounds of liabilities to debenture holder and the Lottery fund as a result of the agreements signed in 2000, something which would have left the club bankrupt.
An initial derisory offer of one pound (yes, one pound) by the SFA for a 52,000 seater stadium and most of its environs was rejected by Queen's, and despite the stadium and grounds being valued at over £20 million, a further offer of £5 million was reluctantly accepted by the club, with ownership of the stadium finally being taken over by the SFA in the summer of 2020.
it is somewhat galling that the chief executive of the SFA when the offer was made was Ian Maxwell, who started his senior football career at Queen's Park.
Lesser Hampden has also seen improvements over the last few years, with the grass pitch replaced by an astroturf pitch in the summer of 2007 and the dressing rooms renovated shortly afterwards. A new permanent structure for the club offices opened in September 2013 to replace the ageing portakins, while Lesser was also the venue for the athlete's warm up track for the Commonwealth Games in 2014.
This meant that all reserve and youth matches and training sessions were forced to be held elsewhere from 1st November 2013 to 6th November 2014. The Commonwealth Games also meant that Queen's were required to vacate Hampden for the entirety of 2014, their longest spell away from their home since the first Hampden opened way back in 1873.
Lesser is under redevelopment in advance of Queen's making it their permanent home, with two stands on the East and West sides of the ground with a capacity of just over 1,800, with games originally scheduled to start there midway through the 2020/21 season, although this has been delayed and it looks unlikely to be ready before 2022.
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