THIS state of the art stadium constructed in 2003 has a 25,000 capacity and could rival some Premier League clubs.
Yet it never saw football played at a higher level than the fourth tier.
This stadium was meant to take the club it hosted to the Premier League, but never saw football played at a higher level than League Two
And to make matters worse, the capacity ended up being restricted to 10,000 by local planning regulations due to poor road access.
In 2012, after the football club that had played there were expelled from the FA and forced to re-form in the eighth tier of English football, the stadium was left abandoned.
For 120 years, the club had played its football at a rough-around-the-edges but much loved 8,500-capacity stadium called Feethams.
But things would change forever when businessman George Reynolds bought Darlington in 1999 and declared his intention to take the club all the way to the Premier League.
Reynolds immediately started work on a 25,500-seater new stadium two miles out of town, which the ever-modest millionaire named the George Reynolds Arena.
However, six months after the stadium opened he took Darlington into administration.
Reynolds was then arrested on suspicion of money laundering in June 2004.
In October 2005, he was sentenced to three years in prison for tax evasion while the money laundering charge was left on file.
Darlington previously played at the Feethams Ground
The Darlington Arena now hosts rugby
The stadium would then become the Northern Echo Arena before being named simply, the Darlington Arena.
But attendances throughout Darlington’s stay there would average between 1,500 and 2,000, with the stadium becoming more and more unpopular due to the association with Reynolds.
With Darlington relegated from League Two in 2010 and the National League in 2012, the costs of playing at the Arena became unviable.
Under fan ownership, the club secured a groundshare with Bishop Auckland.
In 2016, they would move into Darlington Rugby club’s Blackwell Meadows stadium as the club returned to its home city.
But the question after the footy club left was what to do with the unloved Darlington Arena.
It was reported in 2012 that a deal had been agreed to turn the stadium into housing.
However, it would eventually be bought by third tier rugby club Mowden Park, thus saving the stadium as a sporting venue.
And that means it is once again slightly outsized for the competition it hosts.
The second largest stadium in rugby‘s League One holds 8,500 people, with some stadiums in the league holding less than 2,000.
Despite spending years regretting the fact that the Arena was ever constructed, Darlington FC did make one bid to return to it.
This was during Covid when the capacity at Blackwell Meadows was restricted to just 527.
Darlington CEO David Johnston told BBC in 2020: “If we go down to 17 per cent [of Blackwell Meadows] we can’t even provide access for our season ticket holders, let alone any away fans.
“I have already asked the league to consider whether we could relocate to the Arena, which has a 25,000 capacity that would allow safe access and observe social distancing with the walkways, car-parking, everything.”
Nothing would come of it however, and with the pandemic over, the club do not appear to have any long-term desire to return to the Arena.
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