Following the demise of Wigan Borough, football was not away from Springfield Park for long and within nine months Charles Ostick and Joseph Howarth J.P. set about forming Wigan Athletic Football Club. After lengthy negotiation the club purchased Springfield Park for the sum of £3,500*, with a condition of the transaction being that the arena would never be used for greyhound racing. The sale consisted of an area covering “seven acres, 2,563 square yards or thereabouts”, with “all its equipment”, including “a wooden stand with seating for 2,000 spectators and shelter on the popular side”. The ground is described at the time as “one of the most spacious in the county, with tremendous possibilities for development”, encompassing “a capacity for forty to forty-five thousand people”. The pitch is described as “115 yards long by 73 yards 5 inches wide”. On August 27th 1932, Springfield Park hosted the first game for its final occupants, a venture that would last for a further 68 years. Athletic lost by 0-2 to Port Vale Reserves, watched by 5,000 supporters. Admission for this game was 7d (3p).
Catch as Catch Can wrestler, “Dirty” Jack Pye claimed to have held the British record crowd when he appeared in front of 33,000 people for a contest in 1933 against local favourite Billy Riley at Springfield Park.
By the end of 1934, improvements had been made to the Paddock area of the Main Stand and additional shelter had been made available on the Popular Side at a cost of £400.
The most bizarre incident ever witnessed at Springfield Park occured on 29 February 1936 during the match between Wigan Athletic and Altrincham when the game was stopped 11 minutes from time. This happened while Altrincham were leading 0-1 through a Robinson own-goal and Latics were denied two certain penalties within a matter of minutes after besieging their opponents goal. Hundreds of irate fans took matters into their own hands when they ran onto the pitch from the Popside chasing referee, Mr. C Fletcher (Northwich), around the arena. Players from both sides, directors of the club and the police managed to surround the referee and get him safely to the dressing room and following this Wigan Athletic director Harold Kidd and manager Chrarlie Spencer, made an appeal from the front of the stand asking the crowd to disperse and not cause any additional disturbance. Mr Fletcher offered to bring the players out and finish the game if the club would take responsibility, but officials refused fearing more trouble if any further incidents were to occur. There was no other attempt to interfere with the referee and he left about an hour later on his motor cycle.
On September 30th 1938, a mere six years after formation, the directors of Wigan Athletic announced at the Annual General Meeting that the mortgage on Springfield Park had been paid off making the club sole owners of the ground.
Despite the onset of World War Two in 1939, football was still played at Springfield Park until 26 September 1940 when Wigan Athletic suspended any further competetive matches. During the six years of the Second World War (1939-45), Springfield Park was maintained by the “older directors”, but despite their best efforts the Grandstand needed significant repair work and the Popular Side shelter required a new roof. At this time 500 of the 2,000 seats in the grandstand were upholstered.
Springfield Boys Club was formed at Springfield Park and officially opened by the Mayor on June 7th 1941. *( Source: 1934 Wigan Athletic Souvenir Handbook )
The Second Grandstand (1921-53) built by W. B. Johnson and Sons of King Street
Photograph taken from the Shevington End.
The taller building towards the top left of the image is the Springfield Hotel