This was posted to the original site but got lost after I was forced to change hosts.
Like the original Leeds United badge, the birth of Elland Road actually proceeds the formation of Leeds United Football Club. The ground was originally built in 1897 on a plot of land owned by Bentley’s Brewery. It was named after the pub which sits across from it and became known as ‘The Old Peacock Ground.’
The original occupants of the ground were Holbeck Rugby Club, who bought the stadium from the brewery for £1,100. They added a new stand to the stadium for the forthcoming season and the ground became known as Elland Road.
Football was introduced to Elland Road in 1902, when local side Leeds Woodville shared the ground with Holbeck Rugby Club. Sadly, Holbeck went under the following season after losing an important game against St. Helens and the ground was put up for sale.
A meeting was held to discuss the future of the ground and it was decided that a new team would be formed and the ground would be leased to them. This team was to be known as Leeds City FC, who signed the lease on the ground in 1904. The rent was £75 a year with an option to purchase the ground for £5,000. When they eventually did purchase the ground in November, this was reduced to £4,500.
It was during Leeds City FC’s tenancy that the ground began to expand. After their first season in the Football League, the club built a 5,000 capacity covered stand on the west side of Elland Road. The cost of the stand was £1,050. Attendances rose steadily (peaking at 22,500) and more improvements were made. In 1906, Leeds City FC purchased some land behind the North Stand where they would later expand the stadium to include a 4,000 seater grandstand. The improvements featured a new training track and dressing rooms. Work also began on a drainage system for the pitch.
Financial problems slowed the clubs rapid expansion though. After allegations of illegally paying players during the war, Leeds City FC were expelled from the football league and the club ceased to exist. In it’s place came Leeds United AFC.
During the 1920’s the shape of the ground changed further as Leeds United began to make their mark on Elland Road. The terraced area on the South Stand was covered with a curved, wooden roof and became known as ‘The Scratching Shed’. The North Stand became a huge terraced structure that would become known as the ‘Spion Kop’ or the ‘Kop’ for short. The name derives from an hill in South Africa where many English soldiers lost their lives during the Boer War. The East Stand was also redeveloped and became known as ‘the Lowfields’.
The 1930’s and 40’s saw little change to Elland Road but the club did record some impressive attendances. Most notably against eventual champions Arsenal in December 1932 when 56,988 (this figure varies from source to source) people crammed into Elland Road to see a thrilling 0-0 draw. This remained the clubs record attendance for over 30 years and could have been beaten as 1000’s of fans were left locked out and the local newspaper observed the ground wasn’t “uncomfortably full”. In contrast though, the final game of the season saw a mere 9,000 fans turn up for the visit of Middesborough.
The most expensive floodlights of the time came to Elland Road in 1953 costing £7,000. The first floodlit game was against Hibernian where approximately 31,500 fans came to bask in their warming glow. The game ended in a 4-1 win to Leeds with John Charles netting two.
Tragedy hit Elland Road in 1956 when the West Stand was totally anialated by fire. The entire structure – including offices, the press box and club records – was consumed by the blaze. The total damage was estimated to be in the region of £100,000. The clubs insurance turned out to be totally inadequate and after a crisis meeting of the board, a public appeal was launched for funding. £60,000 was raised from the appeal and with a little help from Leeds City Council a £180,000, 4,000 seater structure would be unveiled at the start of the following season.
The new stand had additional room to hold an estimated 6,000 people standing. Just two years later another fire threatened the life of the West Stand, but the clubs directors were on hand to stop the blaze getting out of hand and eventually extinguished the fire with minimal damage caused.
Large scale improvements were made during the reign of Don Revie. The North Stand was redeveloped at a total cost of £250,000 after which it became known as ‘The Gelderd End’. The North-West and North-East corners were also added early in the 1970’s at a cost of £200,000 each. ‘The Scratching Shed’ was dismantled and rebuilt during the 70’s too, to be replaced by a new state-of-the-art structure featuring a standing paddock at the front with seats behind it. It also included several executive boxes. It gradually became known as ‘The South Stand’ thereafter.
The floodlights were the next thing to be replaced and Leeds United broke records in the process, building the largest ones in Europe at an impressive 79 metres tall. 3 were originally built in 1974, with a fourth added the following year.
It wasn’t until 1991 that the next major development of Elland Road took place when the South-East corner was opened. Now nicknamed the ‘cheese wedge’ on account of it’s distinctive yellow seats, it most commonly houses the away fans nowadays but was originally used as the family stand. Our title-winning season of 1992 saw the opening of the banqueting suite behind the West Stand which came complete with it’s very own conference centre.
The most impressive improvement came in 1993 when the new two-tier East Stand was opened. With a capacity of 17,000, it became the biggest cantilever stand in the world. It included 25 extra-executive boxes and became home to Elland Road’s family stand.
The final modification to Elland Road came in 1994 when Elland Road became an all-seater stadium following the findings in the Taylor Report. The final redevelopment was that of the ‘Gelderd End’ or ‘Kop,’ which was officially reopened by the widow of Don Revie and named in honour of our greatest ever manager. The North Stand would hereafter be known as ‘The Don Revie Stand’.
There has been numerous plans to extend the current stadium over the past 15 years, including those set-out by Peter “f-ing” Ridsdale. He proposed a complete demolition of our stadium and a move to a 50,000 seater identi-kit bowl nearby. A ballet was sent out by the chairman outlining two options for the future of the stadium. One would be to improve the current stadium, whereas the other would incur a move. The letter was heavily biased towards the move and unsuprisingly, 87% voted in favour of it. However, the Ridsdale regime crumbled along with the clubs fortunes and things have gone downhill ever since.
Future improvements planned for the East Stand of the stadium include a ‘Chelsea village’ style complex by Ken Bates, which would feature bars, shops, an hotel, museum and nightclub. Stage One of this work which will see improved facilities in the upper part of the East Stand and new executive boxes built began at the end of the 2010-11 season.