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View of the stadium's north and east stands in 2016
|Full name||Stadium MK|
|Location||Denbigh, Bletchley, Milton Keynes, England|
|Public transit|| Bletchley|
Milton Keynes Central
|Capacity||30,500 all seated|
|Record attendance||30,048 Rugby World Cup 2015 Fiji vs Uruguay|
|Field size||105 m x 68 m|
|Broke ground||17 February 2005|
|Opened||29 November 2007 (first game 18 July 2007)|
|Architect||Populous (then HOK Sport)|
|Main contractors||Buckingham Group Contracting|
|Milton Keynes Dons F.C. (2007-) |
Milton Keynes Dons L.F.C. (2018-)
Stadium MK (initially named stadium:mk, stylized stadiummk) is a football ground in the Denbigh district of Bletchley in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, England. Designed by Populous, it is the home ground of EFL League Two side Milton Keynes Dons F.C. and FA Women's National League South side Milton Keynes Dons L.F.C.
As of May 2015[update], the stadium has two tiers which hold a capacity of 30,500. Should it be required, there is the option to increase the capacity of the stadium again to 45,000 with the addition of a third tier, hence the high roof. The design will comply with UEFA's Elite Stadium specifications and includes a Desso GrassMaster playing surface.
The plans of the complex included an indoor arena, Arena MK, that was to be the home of the Milton Keynes Lions professional basketball team. However, the retail developments that would have provided enabling funding were deferred due to lack of financing, leaving the Lions without a home. Following the conclusion of the 2011–12 season, the Lions could not secure a venue within Milton Keynes, resulting in a move south to the Copper Box.
In addition to association football, the stadium occasionally hosts rugby union. The first such occasion was in May 2008, when Saracens (who at the time groundshared with Watford at Vicarage Road) played Bristol at Stadium mk because Watford needed their ground for a Championship play-off. In 2011, Northampton Saints RFC used the ground for their Heineken Cup quarter and semi-final matches because their home ground is too small for major events. The stadium hosted three matches in the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
From the first days of Milton Keynes as a new town, designated in 1967, the Milton Keynes Development Corporation (1967–1992) envisaged a stadium capable of accommodating a top-flight football team. What would become Stadium MK was first proposed in 2000 by the Milton Keynes Stadium Consortium or "Stadium MK", led by Pete Winkelman and his company Inter MK Group. This consortium proposed a large development in the southern Milton Keynes district of Denbigh North, including a 30,000-capacity football stadium, a 150,000-square-foot (13,935 m2) Asda hypermarket, an IKEA store, a hotel, a conference centre, and a retail park. The plan to build a ground of this size was complicated by the fact that there was no professional football club in Milton Keynes and that the highest-ranked team in the town, Milton Keynes City—based in Wolverton in northern Milton Keynes, and formerly known as Mercedes-Benz F.C.—played in the then eighth-tier Spartan South Midlands League, four divisions below the Football League. The developers could not justify building such a stadium for a club of this small stature.
Winkelman, an ex-CBS Records executive and music promoter, had moved to the Milton Keynes area from London in 1993. He attested to a vast untapped fanbase for football in Milton Keynes—a "football frenzy waiting to happen", he said. Critics of this claim pointed to the apparent lack of public interest in Milton Keynes City and the other local non-League clubs, and argued that Milton Keynes residents interested specifically in League football already had ample access with Luton Town, Northampton Town and Rushden & Diamonds all within 25 miles (40 km). In Winkelman's own words, in a 2013 interview, he "didn't have a clue about football" when he was proposing to move a League club from another town—indeed looking back he said "it was that naivety that enabled me to go and do it." He was the only person in Milton Keynes publicly associated with the project; his financial supporters, later revealed to be Asda (a subsidiary of Walmart) and Ikea, were kept strictly anonymous.
Opponents of such a move surmised that the stadium was a "Trojan Horse" included in the blueprint to bypass planning rules, and that although the consortium described the larger development as enabling the construction of the stadium, the reverse was the case—Winkelman's consortium, they claimed, had to have a professional team in place right away to justify the ground so the development could get planning permission. David Conn of The Guardian corroborated this assessment. "The whole project was indeed dependent on Asda and Ikea," Conn summarised in a 2012 article, after interviewing Winkelman. "Having seen the opportunity to build a stadium Milton Keynes lacked, and realised Asda did not have a store in the town, Winkelman acquired options to buy the land from its three owners, including the council. Asda would not have been granted planning permission for a huge out-of-town superstore unless it gave the council the benefit of building the stadium. A League club would move up, permission would be granted, then Winkelman would exercise the option to buy all the land, sell it to Asda and IKEA for very much more, and the difference would be used to build the stadium." Conn retrospectively described this as the "deal of a lifetime".
Starting in 2000 the consortium offered this proposition to several Football League clubs, including Luton Town, Crystal Palace, Barnet, Queens Park Rangers, and Wimbledon F.C.. Wimbledon F.C., who had groundshared at Crystal Palace's Selhurst Park ground since 1991, adopted the Milton Keynes plan after the appointment of a new chairman, Charles Koppel, in January 2001. Koppel said that such action was necessary to prevent Wimbledon F.C.'s going out of business. He announced Wimbledon F.C.'s intent to move on 2 August 2001 with a letter to the Football League requesting approval, stating that Wimbledon had already signed an agreement to relocate and "subject to the necessary planning and regulatory consents being obtained" intended to be playing home games at a newly built stadium in Milton Keynes by the start of the 2003–04 season. The proposed move was opposed in most quarters; the League board unanimously rejected Wimbledon's proposed move in August 2001. Koppel appealed against this decision, leading to a Football Association (FA) arbitration hearing and subsequently the appointment of a three-man independent commission by the FA in May 2002 to make a final and binding verdict. The League and FA stated opposition but the commissioners ruled in favour, two to one.
Wimbledon F.C. hoped to move to Milton Keynes immediately, but as the new ground was yet to be built an interim home in the town would have to be found first. The first proposal, to start the 2002–03 season at the National Hockey Stadium in central Milton Keynes, was abandoned because it did not meet Football League stadium criteria. While alternative temporary options were examined—Winkelman suggested converting the National Bowl music venue—Wimbledon F.C. started the season at Selhurst Park and set a target of playing in MK by Christmas 2002. A group of Wimbledon F.C. fans protested by setting up AFC Wimbledon, to which the vast majority of Wimbledon F.C. fans switched allegiance, in June 2002. A temporary stadium in Milton Keynes proved difficult to arrange and Wimbledon F.C. remained in south London at the end of the 2002–03 season. Koppel announced a plan to convert the National Hockey Stadium for football and play there from the start of the 2003–04 season until the new stadium was built.
Wimbledon F.C. entered administration in June 2003. After the club missed a deadline to invest in renovations to the Hockey Stadium, confusion arose as to whether Wimbledon F.C. would move and where they would play if they did. The administrators arranged a return to Selhurst Park. With the move threatened and the club facing liquidation, Winkelman made "the life-defining decision", to quote Conn, "of taking it on himself". He secured funds from his consortium for the administrators to pay the players' wages, keep the club operating, and pay for the necessary renovations for the National Hockey Stadium to host League football.
After hosting the first few home matches of the 2003–04 campaign at Selhurst Park, Wimbledon F.C. played their first match in Milton Keynes in September 2003. A company voluntary arrangement was put together in March 2004 under which Winkelman's consortium would take Wimbledon F.C. out of administration, reportedly using a holding company called MK Dons. The Football League threatened to expel the club if the takeover were not completed by 31 July. Winkelman's Inter MK Group brought Wimbledon F.C. out of administration in late June 2004 and concurrently announced changes to its name, badge and colours. The new name was Milton Keynes Dons F.C. (commonly shortened to MK Dons).
Milton Keynes Dons continued to play at the National Hockey Stadium while the development including the new ground was constructed in Denbigh. Asda paid Inter MK £35 million for its section of the site, IKEA £24 million. Ground was broken on the stadium in February 2005. In December 2005 MK Dons set a target of playing at the new ground by January 2007; in February 2007 they revised their proposal to a 22,000-seater stadium ready in July of that year, with provision for expansion to 32,000 (it had originally been intended to seat 30,000). The new ground, Stadium mk, hosted its first match in July 2007. Four months later, on 29 November 2007, it was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II.
Although attendances increased since leaving the National Hockey Stadium, the MK Dons average attendance of 10,550 during the 2008–09 League One season remained below half the ground capacity. The MK Dons average home attendance for the first part of the 2009–10 season was ranked 6th out of 24 teams in League One. The average attendance for the 2012–13 season was just 8,612; in the 2013–14 season it was 9,047; in the 2015–16 season it was 13,158. In 2016–17 it was 10,306.
The record attendance for a football match at Stadium MK was on 31 January 2016 when a crowd of 28,127 attended Milton Keynes Dons' 5–1 defeat in the FA Cup fourth round by Chelsea., which beat the previous record of 26,969 who witnessed a shock historic 4-0 win over Manchester United in the second round on 26 August 2014, which is still the record attendance for a Football League Cup game. On 6 October 2015, Stadium MK hosted the Rugby World Cup match, Uruguay versus Fiji and this set the new record attendance to 30,043. On 4 February 2017 a record league attendance of 21,545 was set against Bolton Wanderers in Football League One.
The club's first stadium was the National Hockey Stadium, which was temporarily converted for football for the duration of the club's stay. Their lease on this ground ended in May 2007.
On 18 July 2007, the club's new 22,000 seater stadium hosted its first game, a restricted-entrance event against a young Chelsea XI. The stadium was officially opened on 29 November 2007 by the Queen.
The Dons are the stadium's main tenant and most frequent user, with all the amenities built within the stadium (such as the club shop) are designed for the club's benefit.
Although Queen Elizabeth II officially opened the stadium in November 2007, it hosted its first game on 18 July 2007, a match against a Chelsea XI, which resulted in a 4–3 win for the home side. Later in July an England Legends XI took on a World Legends XI in a match in memory of the late England footballer Alan Ball.
It has hosted two England under-21 internationals. The first was a 2009 UEFA European Under-21 Championship qualification Group 3 match against Bulgaria’s under-21s on November 16, 2007. The hosts beat the visitors 2–0 with Mark Noble scoring twice (on the tenth minute and the seventeenth minute) and James Milner scoring on the twenty sixth minute with 20,222 in attendance. The other was an international friendly against Azerbaijan’s under 21s March 31, 2009. The hosts thrashed the visitors 7–0 with Kieran Gibbs scoring twice and single goals from Michael Mancienne, Craig Gardner and Jack Rodwell as well as own goals from Elcin Sadiqov and Elvin Mammadov with 12,020 in attendance.
In December 2009, the English FA awarded 'Candidate Host City' status to Milton Keynes. Had England won the bid, Stadium MK would have hosted some games. For this to happen, the stadium capacity would have had to be increased to 44,000. However, on 2 December 2010, FIFA decided not to award the World Cup to England.
In late 2014, it was reported that Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur were in negotiations with MK Dons over a temporary groundshare at Stadium MK for a season, during renovations at Spurs' White Hart Lane ground. According to press reports, Tottenham proposed to play most home matches in MK and a small number at Wembley Stadium. The idea of playing home matches in Milton Keynes, even temporarily, was largely unpopular with Spurs fans. The Tottenham Hotspur Supporters Trust stated in September 2014 that it would have "serious issues" with such an arrangement. In a London Evening Standard poll of 206 Tottenham fans two months later, 71 (34%) said they would attend home matches at Stadium mk if the club played there temporarily, while 135 (66%) said they would not. The Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore stated in July 2015 that the Premier League would have no objection to Tottenham groundsharing temporarily—either with MK Dons or with Chelsea at Wembley—but to defend "the integrity of the competition" would not allow Tottenham to play home matches at more than one location in the same season. Two months later, the FA chief executive Martin Glenn indicated that he supported the idea of clubs playing temporarily at Wembley while their grounds were redeveloped.
As of the 2018–19 season, MK Dons women's team share Stadium MK as their home stadium with their male counterparts, Milton Keynes Dons - one of the first clubs in the country to share a stadium between both men's and women's teams of the same club.
Saracens were the first club to host a Premiership rugby match at Stadium mk when Bristol Rugby visited on 10 May 2008, away from their regular Vicarage Road ground, due to Watford F.C. playing at home in the 2008 Championship play-off semi-final. It provided a grand stage for Rugby World Cup 2003 winner Richard Hill's 288th and last appearance for the men in black. A last-minute try from Kameli Ratuvou ensured Hill's 15-year club career finished on a winning note.
On 30 December 2012, Saracens hosted Northampton Saints for a regular season match at Stadium MK, while their new stadium at Barnet Copthall was still being built. The Saints hosted Saracens in April 2015 before a record 27,411 crowd, as a Premiership game and additionally as a preparation exercise for the stadium's hosting of the 2015 Rugby World Cup. Northampton hosting games at Stadium MK has become a regular occurrence and Saints now host at least one game a year at the stadium.
On 24 January 2011, the Northampton Saints Rugby union club announced that their 2010–11 Heineken Cup quarter final match against Ulster would take place in the stadium, because their Franklin's Gardens ground is too small to meet the minimum 15,000 seats demanded by the organisers.
The Saints had previously indicated that they might play future major games at Stadium mk as their proposal to expand Franklin's Gardens using an enabling (ASDA supermarket) development had encountered planning difficulties.
Accordingly, their quarter-final match was played at the stadium on Sunday 10 April 2011 in front of a (then) stadium record crowd of 21,309 supporters who witnessed the Saints (the 'home' side for the day) beat Ulster 23–13. This secured for the Saints a place in the semi-final of the Heineken Cup where they went on to beat USA Perpignan, again at Stadium MK.
On 21 January 2012, Northampton Saints played their final 2011–12 Heineken Cup pool match at Stadium MK against Munster. Saints were defeated 36–51 but the game set a new stadium record attendance of 22,220.
On 8 October 2012, the organisers of the 2015 Rugby World Cup announced that the stadium was one of 17 to be short-listed for detailed appraisal, leading to the final choice of 12 stadiums to be announced in March 2013 It was officially announced as a venue for the 2015 Rugby World Cup on 2 May, and with the venue capacity to expand to 32,000, it hosted three fixtures. The first was a Pool D match between France and Canada on October 1, 2015 with France winning 41–18 with 28,145 in attendance. The second was a Pool B match between Samoa and Japan two days later with Japan winning 26–5 with 29,019 in attendance. The third and final was a Pool A match between Fiji and Uruguay three days later with Fiji winning 47–15 with new stadium attendance record, with 30,048 in attendance.
The stadium was used as a centrepoint for the 40th birthday celebrations of Milton Keynes which took place during 2007.
The South stand of Stadium MK is known as the Cowshed by Dons fans, as Milton Keynes is known for its Concrete Cows. This nickname was also used for the home end at the Dons' previous ground in Milton Keynes, the National Hockey Stadium, now demolished.
The North stand is known as the Boycott End, after the boycotting of the first fixture between the Dons and AFC Wimbledon in which the fans of the latter brought more than 3,000 fans to the game.
The side stands are known for the direction in which they are from the pitch (East and West), although the upper tier of the West stand (commonly used by the club's top brass and distinguished guests) is referred to by some as "Prawn Sandwiches".
There is a hotel, shopping complex, restaurants and a cinema adjacent to the stadium.
The nearest railway stations are Bletchley and Fenny Stratford. Both of these are about 1.3 miles (2.1 km) away from the stadium. Milton Keynes Central station, about 2.6 miles (4.2 km) away, has more intercity services. Milton Keynes Central and Bletchley are on the busy West Coast Main Line to London, the West Midlands and the North-West; Fenny Stratford is on the quiet Marston Vale Line to Bedford. There are shuttle bus connections from the Central and Bletchley stations. Car parking beside the stadium is limited and expensive: time limits on parking outside the shops are strictly enforced on match days. On special occasions, the National Bowl is used for overflow parking.
Winkelman is adamant Milton Keynes can support a league club in the way that Merton apparently could not, and can point to today's sell-out crowd as evidence. His reasoning, however, is idiosyncratic. 'This place is absolutely crying out for top-flight football,' he says. ... Winkelman's endgame is to move Wimbledon to a Premiership-quality home at nearby Denbeigh, complete with an Asda supermarket and a hotel. But the notion that the 250,000 residents of MK have been starved of football is undermined by a glance at a map. Northampton, Luton and Rushden & Diamonds are within 30 minutes' drive and on any given Saturday Milton Keynes station is full of supporters of clubs in London and the Midlands making their way to games. Meanwhile Milton Keynes City folded in the summer through a lack of funds and, apparently, interest.
Asda, the world's largest supermarket chain, wanted a presence in a Tesco stronghold and wanted to build Europe's largest supermarket there. Planning rules meant that development on greenfield sites was not supported, but the proposed MK Asda would not work on a brownfield site. The only way the greenfield site restrictions could be got around was through what's called 'planning gain'—in plain English some demonstrable benefit to the local community that would come from allowing development. A football stadium would be one example of a civic amenity that would do the job. But Milton Keynes did not have a team that needed a stadium on the scale required. And with no team, there would be no stadium, and therefore no development.
A consortium backed by supermarket and property developers is on the brink of an agreement with the First Division club's administrators—and it will safeguard their future. Their only demand is that if they win control of the club it MUST move to Milton Keynes. ... It is the same group which will build a new 28,000 all-seater stadium for Wimbledon as part of a major development project on the Denbigh North site which will also include an Asda superstore, other retail outlets, a hotel and offices. The building of the stadium and the arrival of the football club are vital to the project, so all parties are keen for Wimbledon to survive administration. ... Winkelman said: 'In terms of the financial side of things, they are not really a problem, and we have been working alongside Grant Thornton in order to give Wimbledon the best chance of survival. We only have three questions to be answered before we can conclude things. The first is will the club be moving to Milton Keynes and, if so, where will they play and when will it happen? Once we have those answers then we can move things on. Obviously we would only be interested if we knew the club was moving to Milton Keynes.'
Milton Keynes was also where, according to Winkelman, there was a 'football frenzy waiting to happen'—yet the club drew 5,639 for their first match, with Burnley on September 27, 2003, substantially down on the 7,675 that saw the corresponding fixture at Selhurst Park in the 2001–02 season, before a supporter boycott in protest at the move began. Even now, there is negligible difference between gates at MK Dons and the club they smothered. ... Those with a tenuous grasp of history may swallow the MK fairy story—which also killed the real football club in the area, Milton Keynes City, wound up in July 2003—but no true football fan should.
[Hayes:] You were the subject of protests and a lot of personal vilification when you took Wimbledon to Milton Keynes. When you look back, was it worth it? [Winkelman:] I understand all the difficulties at the beginning. Luckily, I didn't have a clue about football and it was that naivety that enabled me to go and do it. Did it have to happen? I think it did—football had to be in Milton Keynes. We had the opportunity with the backing of the council and the politicians to go and finish this aspiration of Milton Keynes for a big stadium.
The Milton Keynes Stadium consortium wants the stricken West London club to play in its new stadium, which is due to be completed in 2003. Consortium chief Pete Winkelman is confident his bid will be successful as QPR, relegated to Division Two, suffer even more financial hardship.
Tottenham are looking to juggle both stadiummk and Wembley as a place to play whilst their new ground is under construction, but there has been no confirmation by the Premier League.
The Tottenham Hotspur Supporters Trust was damning of the suggestion of a relocation to Milton Keynes, though, stating: "There would be some serious issues with that."
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