Wolverhampton Wanderers‘ home ground has been Molineux Stadium in Wolverhampton, West Midlands, England, since 1889. It was the first stadium built specifically for a Football League team, one of the first British venues to install floodlights, and it hosted some of Europe’s first club matches in the 1950s.
Although it has since been surpassed by other stadium developments, Molineux was one of the largest and most modern stadiums in England at the time of its multi-million dollar renovation in the early 1990s. In addition to the first UEFA Cup Final in 1972, the stadium has previously hosted England internationals and, more recently, England under-21 internationals.
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Molineux is a 32,050-seat stadium, but when it had more terracing, it routinely drew much larger crowds. The number of attendees is 61,315. A £40 million redevelopment program to rebuild and connect three stadium sides to increase capacity to 38,000 seats was announced in 2010. The Stan Cullis Stand, the project’s initial phase, was finished in 2012. The club prioritized funds for the expansion of the youth academy, delaying the next two stages. Every stand has tentative plans for a longer-term renovation that could increase capacity to 50,000.
History on the Molineux Stadium
Benjamin Molineux, a prosperous local businessman (and an ancestor of the now extinct Earls of Sefton), bought the property on which he built Molineux House, which was later transformed into the Molineux Hotel and on which the stadium would eventually be constructed, in 1744. O.E. McGregor bought the estate in 1860, and he turned the property into a public pleasure park. The complex, known as Molineux Grounds, featured a variety of amenities, including an ice rink, a cycling track, a boating lake, and, most importantly, a football field.
The Northampton Brewery purchased the grounds in 1889, and they leased them to Wolverhampton Wanderers, a team that had previously played at Dudley Road. Following site renovation, the first-ever league game was played on September 7, 1889, with a 2-0 victory over Notts County in front of 4,000 spectators. Wolves paid £5,607 (£303,338.70 in 2018 prices) for the freehold in 1923 and quickly began building a sizable grandstand on the Waterloo Road side (designed by Archibald Leitch). The club also constructed a brand-new stand on the Molineux Street side in 1932, and two years later it added a roof to the South Bank. Finally, the stadium had four stands, forming Molineux for the ensuing 50 years. One of the biggest goal stands in Britain was the South Bank Stand terraces.
At a cost of about £10,000 (£274,000 in 2018 prices), the club installed floodlights in 1953, making it among the first in Britain to do so. The first floodlit game ever was played on September 30, 1953, with Wolves defeating South Africa 3-1. Mr. F Read of Willenhall served as the match’s official referee. With the installation of the floodlights, Molineux was able to host a number of midweek friendlies against teams from all over the world.
Before the European Cup and other international club competitions were established, these matches were extremely prestigious, drew sizable crowds, and were frequently broadcast by the BBC. Later, in 1957, as the stadium got ready to host its first European Cup games, a new, taller set of floodlights were put in at a cost of £25,000 (or £595,00 in 2018 dollars). Plans to rebuild Molineux into a 70,000-capacity stadium in the early 1960s were unveiled in 1958, but the local council rejected them, delaying any significant alterations to the stadium for another 20 years.
Further redevelopment and decline
The now entirely enclosed Molineux Street Stand did not adhere to the 1975 Safety of Sports Grounds Act’s requirements. On land where homes had previously been demolished, the club started work on constructing a new stand behind the existing one. The new stand, created by architects Atherden and Rutter, could accommodate 9,348 people and had 42 executive boxes. However, it had red seats instead of the club’s traditional blue and white. The old stand in front was destroyed after construction was finished, leaving the stand about 100 feet from the touchline.
The John Ireland Stand, so named in honor of the then-club president, was inaugurated on August 25, 1979, at the start of a First Division match against Ipswich Town. This was meant to be the first stage of the stadium’s complete reconstruction, which would have given it a 40,000 capacity by 1984 and made it the first postwar league football stadium to be entirely rebuilt. However, only the John Ireland Stand portion of this project would actually materialize. Another ten years would pass before further development.
Plans for additional stadium renovations that would have cost more than £4 million and included five-a-side football fields, indoor and outdoor tennis courts, and an eight-lane running track were unveiled in 1981. These, however, were quickly abandoned because of mounting debts.
The John Ireland Stand, which was finished in 1979 and renamed The Steve Bull Stand in 2003, was one of the most expensive constructions at any football stadium in the United Kingdom. It cost £2.5 million ($13,675,000 in 2018 prices). When Wolves was taken over by a group led by former player Derek Dougan in 1982, the club narrowly escaped going out of business due to the cost of the stand’s construction.
The stadium’s current configuration saw 31,746 spectators in attendance for a Premier League game against Liverpool on January 23, 2020.
The stadium’s capacity would be increased, and its facilities would be developed, as part of plans that were first revealed in May 2010. Three months after submitting a complete planning permission application in September 2010, it was approved.
Phase 1 of this process began on May 23, 2011, the same day that the Stan Cullis Stand was demolished. Its confirmation came in February 2011. For the 2012–13 season, a new two–tier stand (seating 7,798) that extended around to the north–east corner was planned, complete with a mega-store, museum, café, and hospitality facilities. Contractors The Buckingham Group completed this phase, which is estimated to have cost £18 million. The lower tier was made accessible to spectators by September 2011, allowing a temporary stadium capacity of 27,828. On August 11, 2012, the stand was fully opened in time for the club’s opening match of the 2012–13 campaign, adding a new official stadium capacity of 31,700.
The Steve Bull Stand will be rebuilt during phase two over the course of two seasons. Initially scheduled to start in the summer of 2012, work has since been delayed with no new start date yet determined. Club owner Steve Morgan declared in January 2013 that the club would give its academy facilities more attention than the stadium. When this phase is complete, the stadium’s capacity will be around 36,000, and this stand will be joined to the new Stan Cullis Stand. If this second stage is completed, the total cost of the redevelopment will exceed £40 million.
Phase 3 is dependent on demand and funding, but it is anticipated to involve building a new top tier on the Sir Jack Hayward Stand to link it to the brand-new Steve Bull Stand. Capacity would increase to about 38,000 as a result.
A tentative plan for Phase 4 calls for a complete renovation of the Billy Wright Stand, increasing capacity to 50,000. However, no planning permission has yet been requested for this phase, and there is no timetable in place, so it is still only a potential development rather than a planned one.
How to Get to Molineux Stadium
Arriving to Molineux Stadium with Public Transportation
Wolverhampton Railway Station [WVH]: Railway Dr, West Midlands, Wolverhampton WV1 1LE
Molineux can be reached by foot in about 15 minutes from Wolverhampton Railway Station.
Turn right onto the inner ring road after continuing straight toward the city center from the main station entrance.
Just continue on the ring road as it circles to the left in a clockwise direction.
The Molineux will eventually be visible on your right.
On gameday, taking a local bus is a great way to cut down on traffic around the stadium.
Arriving by Car at Molineux Stadium
Click here to view Molineux Stadium on Google Maps.
From the north, leave the M6 at junction 12. Take the third exit off of the island onto the A5 toward Wolverhampton. Turn left onto the A449 at the subsequent island. The A449 crosses under the M54 after six miles. Continue straight ahead and take the third exit onto Waterloo Road at the sixth island (Five Ways). One mile straight ahead will bring you to Molineux.
From the southwest, take junction 2 off of the M5. On the A4123, travel eight miles to the Ring Road by following the signs for Wolverhampton. As you follow the signs for Molineux, turn left onto the Ring Road. At the next set of traffic lights, turn left after taking the second exit from the next two islands, passing Banks’ Brewery and the swimming baths on the left. 500 yards to the right is Molineux.
From the Southeast, leave the M6 at junction 10. To reach the Wolverhampton Ring Road, take the A454 through Willenhall. Take the fourth exit at the first Ring Road Island (A449 to Stafford). At the following two sets of traffic lights,