An artist's impression of the redeveloped Springfield Park
During the close season of 1985, the executive suite was upgraded. Also, in the wake of the Taylor Report, the capacity of Springfield Park was cut from 20,000 to 10,800.
On 18 December 1985 tragedy struck Springfield Park. Bill Kenyon, a name that sends a shiver down the spine of any Wigan Athletic supporter of the time, replaced Brian Heathcote as chairman. This point, in retrospect, was the beginning of slow death for the venue as Kenyon was the first of three incumbent’s who tried to rebuild the stadium and later relocate the club. In February 1986 he wasted no time as he revealed sensational plans to turn Springfield Park into a £2.5m super stadium. If the development became reality then the ground would be transformed into a Wembley-like complex complete with a hotel, shops and a 15,000 all-seater sports arena. The club would have to play their home games at the former Woodhouse Stadium for the period of construction. The scheme did not get past the design stage.
Springfield Borough at Springfield Park 1987-88 (courtesy Thomas Sutch)
The Heinz Family Enclosure was opened on 28 March 1987. Entry cost £4 for an adult and 50p for a child.
The St. Andrews Drive Stand was rebuilt in the summer of 1987, replacing the old dog-legged stand that was a combination of two previous endeavours, one from the early 1920’s and an extension from the late 1950’s. The new covered section ran along the full length of the pitch and housed a refreshment bar. (see photograph showing the new Popside stand during construction)
The sight of rugby league posts at Springfield Park will look strange to many supporters but the 1987/88 season saw rugby league featured at the ground as Blackpool Borough RLFC re-located to Springfield Park and were subsequently known as Springfield Borough. On 24 April 1988, Springfield Borough played Sheffield Eagles in the final rugby league match at Springfield Park. Borough won the game 11-10. The last try scorer was Mark Viller, while Mike Smith scored the concluding goal and drop goal.
The Vice Presidents Lounge 1992
In March 1990, a second attempt to convert Springfield Park into an all-seater stadium was unveiled by Bill Kenyon in an all out bid to keep Wigan Athletic at the ground. The scheme would cost £3m, house between 12,000 to 15,000 fans and would involve moving the pitch away from St. Andrews Drive resulting in the demolition of the Phoenix Stand. Mr Kenyon said: “When I became chairman, Springfield Park resembled a bucket with holes in it. “We have worked hard to try to plug the holes but the time may now be right for us to have a new bucket.” This proposal also failed to get past the planning stage.
After much media conjecture and rumours of a move to Skelmersdale, the programme for February 28th 1992 had the following notes: "There has been much speculation about our proposed relocation from Springfield Park.We feel it is important to inform our supporters of areas which have been a concern to us regarding the future of the club. As you are aware football is at last trying to put its house in order, for the safety and comfort of fans who pay money to be entertained.We are in total agreement with this idea!!! There is a movement at football league level to make the facilities of a club a condition of the league they are hoping to play in. All clubs in the near future must be self funding, so therefore a multi purpose stadium is a must, if we are to survive financially without continually selling players. There seems to be an acceptance from all of the authorities now that the Springfield Park area is suitable for a complex with demands on entrance, exit and movement of so many people.We have always wanted to remain in the Wigan area with a stadium that gave our supporters easy access, parking and enabled us to progress to the highest level in football.We are also aware of other peoples problems enabling us to achieve this aim.We have therefore appointed Makerfield Design Partnership (Architects) and a firm of surveyors to draw plans of a stadium which will satisfy todays demands with tomorrows dreams...". That was the news all Latics fans wanted hear: A new ground was to be built at the same location as the existing one.This scheme also disappeared without trace.
On 18 December 1992, exactly seven years after he took control, Bill Kenyon sold Wigan Athletic to Corporate Resources Limited, headed by Stephen Gage and Nick Bitel.
During the close season in 1994 the St.Andrews Terrace was re-roofed and new crush barriers installed. These were bought from Villa Park after the Holte End was re-developed
30 August 1994 saw the lowest ever league attendance for Wigan Athletic at Springfield Park.Just 1231 turned up to watch Chesterfield beat Latics 2-3
In November 1994 reserve games were moved to Christopher Park as the pitch was deteriorating badly due to Blackburn Rovers reserves playing at the ground during 94-95 season.
In December 1994 Latics were incensed by radio reports that Dave Whelan had bought the club. Steven Gage said, "It's extremely annoying that such a load of nonsence should have been broadcast".
After repeated attempts to relocate Latics to Robin Park, Stephen Gage, seeing his plans scuppered by Wigan Council, finally admitted defeat when he sold Latics and Springfield Park to Dave Whelan on 27 February 1995 for around £1m.