Central Park has been the home of Cowdenbeath FC since 1917. Prior to this, they played at North End Park which is still
used for amateur football today.
One of the last remaining elliptical bowls in Scottish football, Central
Park has changed only superficially over the years. The original grandstand, with room for 3500 people, was 120-yards
long and was constructed in 1921.
At the time, Cowdenbeath was a prosperous mining community and the town's
main pit was adjacent to the ground (it is now communal park land). The stand survived a relatively minor fire in 1985 but
was decimated by a major blaze in 1992 which destroyed all the facilities underneath.
Only half of the original stand remains, referred to as the "Old Stand".
The "New Stand" was constructed at great expense to the already-struggling club and opened before a challenge match against Rangers
in 1993 by local MP Gordon Brown, who went on to become Chancellor of the Exchequer and then Prime Minister.
Understandably, the club were on their uppers for several years after
this event. They received an insurance payout but, as Airdrie recently discovered to their peril, the building costs can often
exceed the available money in the pot.
Central Park is now owned outright by property developers Brewster.
At one time, the stadium encompassed an enormous area but tracts of land were sold off over the years. Nevertheless the
existing boundaries enclose a plot of land far in excess of what most other clubs can call their own. The area in the
bottom right of the photograph, where you see the all-weather pitch, is now owned by Fife Council while the waste ground on
the left, behind the goals, was sold off in desperation at the end of the 80's.
The 1920's and 30's were halcyon days for the Blue Brazil, or "The Miners"
as they were then known. A ten-year unbroken spell in the top division saw large crowds flock to Central Park, often in excess
of 10,000. Even a humble Fife Cup tie could attract several thousand spectators.
The seemingly derelict ground behind the grandstand is still the property
of the club and is actually used as the pit-area during the stock-car meetings which are hosted at Central Park on Saturday
evenings. Central Park has been a dual-purpose stadium for over half a century. Greyhounds were superseded by speedway which,
in turn, was replaced by stock-car racing in 1965.
The "stockies" have been tremendously successful over the years and countless
large-scale meetings have been held at Cowdenbeath, or "The Racewall" as it is known to the motor brigade.
Many visitors to Central Park wrongly assume that it has a large playing
surface. In fact, the pitch is the narrowest in Scotland. This is not immediately obvious to the untrained eye as the wide
stock-car track exaggerates the true proportions of the turf.
The car park at the top right of the picture was owned by the club
until the mid-90's. By this time, the facility had fallen into disrepair and even Neil Armstrong would have found it difficult
to navigate the surface. The council stepped in and purchased the land for a nominal fee, thus creating a properly-maintained
Concrete terracing was installed on the south side of the ground (opposite
the stand) in 1982. The terracing had previously consisted of ash plus a few railway sleepers. For many years, the west
end of the ground was topped by a covered enclosure, known locally as "The Coo Shed", but this was blown down in 1983. Recently,
this terrace has been drastically reduced in height and a few concrete steps have been laid down.
With the Coo Shed confined to the past, practically everyone on the terracing
now watches the proceedings from the side opposite the grandstand. There is no hindrance to standing behind the goals
but the elongated viewing distances deter most people from this practice, the exceptions being supporters of clubs who traditionally
change ends on their own patch, eg Alloa and Arbroath.
The new stand seats 500 although the view from the front couple of rows
is questionable. Its older companion, with bench seating from the original Murrayfield stand, has room for 1000 souls and
accommodates the hordes from the terracing whenever the rain falls heavily.
The floodlight pylons were erected in 1968 and Celtic provided the opposition
to mark the occasion. The record attendance is 25,000 for the League Cup quarter final match against Rangers in 1949. Curiously,
it was a repeat of this fixture which attracted the last five-figure crowd to Central Park in 1984.
The official figure was quoted as 9925 but that wouldn't have taken into
account the thousands who flooded in when the main gate was opened by the police. Shortly afterwards, the Bradford disaster
prompted legislation which required smaller clubs to obtain safety certificates and Cowden's capacity was slashed to a meagre
1970, including just 450 seats.
Another notable crowd was the five-figure throng which turned up for
the 1977 World Stock Car finals. Depending on who you talk to, this statistic varies between 12,000 and 18,000. I'll split
the difference and put it down as 15,000.
In 1990, fireproofing and recladding work was carried out on the main
stand which restored the old wooden structure to its former glory. The theory was that any blaze which sprouted underneath
would be confined to the bowels of the stand and would not scorch the spectators above.
When fire actually did break out late at night only a year later, the
scientific principles held true but the destruction of the club's offices was hastened as the fire had nowhere to go but sideways.
When the firefighters arrived from Lochgelly, there wasn't a great deal worth salvaging. After this episode, the teams were
forced to change in Portakabins for over a year.
Presently, the permitted ground capacity hovers just above the 4000
mark. This limit is rarely put to the test but cup matches against Hibs and
Dunfermline and the promotion decider against Brechin City have seen the ground well filled.
Much of Cowden's continuing existence can be attributed to the fact that
they are able to rent out their stadium for other purposes. Aside from the ubiquitous stockies, the ground plays host to annual
events such as monster truck shows and travelling fairgrounds. also the staging of a weekly outdoor market inside the