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The History of Rugby Park

As the Second Division championship flag was raised high above Rugby Park on August 26, 1899, (seen above) few of the cheering Kilmarnock supporters could possibly have foreseen the rich history which was to be unfurled with the Saltire.

Rugby Park - now transformed into an 18,000 all-seater stadium - has born witness to every one of the club's achievements over the past century.

Kilmarnock Football Club early roots can be traced back to 1869 when young cricketers who played on Barbados Green (now the Howard Park) decided that they needed something to occupy their time during the winter months when cricket was not an option. This is when the first club meeting took place and the club founded.

At that time Killie found themselves playing a form of primitive football-rugby at their first ground, near South Hamilton Street. This sport was by no means anything like the football that we know and love now, it was more like a type of Rugby; hence their ground was named Rugby Park.

It has played host to spectacular European evenings, Scottish Cup celebrations and, of course, the surge towards the remarkable championship
triumph of 1965. Rugby Park also did it's "bit" towards the war effort, as it was used as a munitions "dump" during World War II.

1944 Rugby Park During WW II



1944 Rugby Park During WW II



1955 Rugby Park

Late 1950's Ariel Shot of Kilmarnock

1961 Main Stand Renovation

1967 East Enclosure



Early 80's Ariel Shot

1989 Main Stand Renovation (Family Seats Added)
 



Dec 1991 "Game On"

Joy and pain have been experienced in equal measure on the concrete terraces and, in recent times, gleaming blue seats - and the Ayrshire club has acknowledged the significance of the centenary. "The history of this club is magnificent. Many people think Kilmarnock's history started in 1962 and finished in 1967, but it is far, far richer," former commercial manager Jim McSherry reported.

"Rugby Park, like so many historic grounds in Scotland, is more than just a football ground - it is a focal point for an entire community. I regularly speak to elderly fans who have been coming here for 50, 60, 70 years and Rugby Park is like a second home to many of them."

Rugby Park is, in fact, Kilmarnock's fourth home, the club having shuttled between local playing fields for three decades after being founded as Scotland's first professional club in 1869.

The Grange, Holm Quarry and Ward's Park all hosted home matches before the town's football, cricket and rugby clubs (hence the name of the ground) agreed on closer ties towards the end of the last century.

It was, perhaps, fitting that the opening fixture should have been between the new Second Division champions and the reigning Scottish Cup-holders, Celtic.
"Even the horses of the mounted police danced with joy," reported the Kilmarnock Standard, as the home side came from two goals down to force a draw.


Such spirit has highlighted much of Killie's play during the past century, particularly during the golden era of the mid-Sixties and the current success which has seen the club qualify for Europe in four out of 5 seasons between 1997-2001.

Eintracht Frankfurt, Real Madrid, Leeds United and Everton all endured the intimidating atmosphere of Rugby Park as Killie challenged in the European Cup and Fairs Cup in the Sixties. But the good times have been punctuated by sorry spells, none more than the experience of dropping into the old Second Division in the early Eighties.

Eintracht Frankfurt, were also selected to be the club's opposition for their Centenary Match on April 12th, 1969.

During the summer of 1968 Killie's floodlight system was upgraded to accommodate live TV broadcasts, including the pylon being erected next to the East enclosure terraces. The most recent upgrade prior to this was the rebuilding of the main stand (over the top of the old one) during the 1960-61 season. (above).

Former Kilmarnock, Rangers and Brighton striker Gordon 'Casper' Smith,  (pictured left below) who signed schoolboy forms at Rugby Park as a 14 year old in 1969, recalled the glory days. "When I started training with Killie, they still had quite a few of the players who had won the championship in 1965 and they were a great team. Before the days of huge stands and all-seated grounds, Rugby Park was considered to be one of the best grounds in Scotland."

"It certainly had the best playing surface in Scotland. I was there for eight years and I never remember a single game being postponed, and that was in the days before under-soil heating." 

"I often think back to my debut, at home to Wolves in the old Texaco Cup. It was a 0-0 draw, but it was so exciting for me as a young player."  

Smith, along with the likes of, Tommy McLean, Tommy Burns, Jackie McInally and, in recent times, Ally McCoist, Ian Durrant and Alan McInally Jnr, are among the stars to have worn  the blue and white stripes at Rugby Park.

After Killie won promotion in the 1992-93 season, the old Rugby Park was certainly starting to show it's age, and being a Premier Club, Killie would have to address the gracefully aging old stadium.

Former chief executive Ian Welsh explained why Killie choose to stay at Rugby Park Vs moving elsewhere....."The club considered moving to an out-of-town site a few years ago, but so much history would have been lost,"
So in early 1994 with the club's  SPL future hanging in the balance the Killie board took a major financial risk and agreed to start the renovation of its stadium.

 

The last game at the 'old Rugby Park' was played May 7th 1994, when Killie beat Rangers 1-0! (Above). The bulldozers moved in, the very next day.



The "New Rugby Park"

During 1994-95 season Killie played in front of 3 new stands being constructed at Rugby Park.

Killie go on to officially open the "new" Rugby Park on August 6th 1995, in a friendly match against English Premier Champion Blackburn Rovers.


Killie lose 0-5 with a certain Mr Alan Shearer netting a "hat-trick" for the visitors in front of a 10,004 crowd.

 

 

 

 

On May 12th 1998 Rugby Park hosts the last ever Ayrshire Cup Final,  Killie come back from 2 down at the half to beat Ayr 4-2.

 

1995 Main Stand Renovation



1995 Front of the Main Stand

 Moffat Stand Built 1994-95

2001 Rear of the Moffat Stand on Dundonald Road

Moffat Stand inside the Turnstyles

2001 Rear of the Main Stand

2001 Rear of the Chadwick Stand



Chadwick Stand on Rugby Rd
 Built 1994-95

2001 East Stand



Three Dimension Mock Up of Rugby Park

And on Thursday, Aug 26th 1999 a Bobby Williamson led Killie team entertained KR Reykjavik in the UEFA Cup, as Kilmarnock  Football Club celebrated 100 years at Rugby Park.

Mementoes were presented to the players and a special commemorative publication was commissioned to mark the occasion.

A near-capacity crowd  turned out to urge on the team as they overturned a 1-0 deficit from the preliminary-round first leg in Iceland.

To mark that special evening in the history of Kilmarnock Football Club a special programme for the night was issued. (Right).

"The centenary is a significant landmark for the club and, by laying the new pitch at a cost of £500,000 this summer, we are stating our commitment to stay at Rugby Park for another 100 years," said former Club Director Ian Welsh. The relaying of the turf, which has been accompanied by the installation of a state-of-the-art drainage system, is the first pitch upgrade for 50 years.

The supporters, particularly a young element who have been reared on Premier League and, latterly, continental fare, responded by purchasing a record 5,400 season tickets for the 1994/95 campaign.

Summer 1999 Underground Heating Installed.

Also in Aug of 1999, Rugby Park was used for a fictitious Scottish Cup Semi-Final, and was called "Premier Park" for the film "A Shot At Glory". Killie were allegedly  playing Kilnockie at a neutral site site and lost 1-0 to a Second Division team. The film ironically stared Killie's Ally McCoist, who was playing for Kilnockie as a former Celtic player.

2001 Hot Air Balloons Over Rugby Park

In 2001 it is understood that Killie's state-of-the-art drainage system, is too noisy for the club's neighbours and Killie have to bring in hot air balloons to back up the malfunctioning system. It is also reported that the firm that installed the system is no longer!

The Park Hotel (Adjacent to Rugby Park)

In June 2002, Kilmarnock Football club opened the Park Hotel, adjacent to Rugby Park. The hotel was built on top of Killie's old training pitch.The Hotel incorporates the Ayrshire Banqueting and Conference Centre, offering 50 executive twin/double bedrooms, is ideal for the business and leisure traveller.  The Cafe Bar serves light meals and refreshments throughout the day, and Blues Restaurant offers excellent cuisine in modern, relaxed and informal surroundings. These facilities are open to non-residents on match-days.

Nov 2004 Killie open a new sports under the main stand (where the Killie shop used to be). Bar is sponsored in part by Fosters Beer.

Rugby Park & Scotland!

Rugby Park has hosted two full Scotland international's since it's renovation. Both in 1997. Scotland hosted Estonia in March 1997 in a France 98 World Cup Qualifier, in front of a "full-house".

Then on the 27th of May in 1997 Scotland hosted Wales, in a friendly full international. This was 3 days after Killie had won the Scottish Cup for the 3rd time! Killie paraded the Scottish Cup to the fans at half time!

In May 2012, after the seasons conclusion, Killie started re-laying the playing surface after several seasons neglect.

The cost was estimated at around a hundred and fifty grand.

The good news was that these renovations were funded by Glasgow Celtic's titling winning outing at Rugby Park, where Killie sold the visiting fans three of the four stands, in March.

Celtic avenged their League Cup Final loss to Killie by winning 6-0, that day, but Killie still denied then the treble, and kept their cash!

 

 

 

2013 Home Changing Room 

Directions to Rugby Park



LOCATION: Rugby Road, Rugby Park, Kilmarnock

TELEPHONE: 01563 525184

CAPACITY: 18128 (All seated)

PITCH DIMENSIONS: 112yds x 74yds

BUSES: The main bus station, which is served by buses from all over the country is ten minutes walk from the ground, but there are three local services which run from here to within two minutes walk of the park. These are the Kilmarnock-Saltcoats, Kilmarnock-Ardrossan and Kilmarnock-Largs routes.

TRAINS: Kilmarnock Station is well served by trains from Glasgow and the West Coast, and the station is only 15 minutes walk from the ground.

CARS: Car parking is available in the club car park by permit only. Entry ONLY from Dundonald Road. Visiting supporters enter only from the Rugby Road entrance. Rugby Park is signed as 'Football Traffic' from the main A77 Glasgow -Ayr dual carriageway and on internal roads within the town.

ON FOOT: If you are planning to walk to the ground from the town centre, locate the railway station at the  top end of John Finnie Street. Once you have found that walk away from it down John Finnie Street until you reach traffic lights outside the Sheriff Court. Turn right and head up to the next set of lights, passing The Portman Hotel on your left hand side. At the next set of lights turn left and you'll see the stadium on your right hand side.

DISABLED FACILITIES: Contact Mae Orr on 01563 537522

Rugby Park Facts

Address

Rugby Park, Rugby Road, Kilmarnock, KA1 2DP

Phone Number

(01563) 525184

Opened

1899

Renovated

1945-46

Main Stand Renovated

1961

Floodlights Upgraded

1968

Renovated (All Seater)

1994-95

Underground Heating

1999

Current Capacity

18,128

Lowest Crowd

460 Vs Alloa Ath,  1984 Scottish First Division

Largest Crowd (Old)

35,995 Vs Rangers,  1962 Scottish Cup

Largest Crowd (New)

18,076 Vs Celtic,  1998 SPL

Last International Hosted

Scotland Vs Wales, May 27th 1997

Rugby Park's First Concert

Veteran rock star Elton John  played a summer concert at Scottish Premier League stadium Rugby Park on 26th of June of 2005. An estimated 15,000 fans took in the event, where Elton donned a Killie scarf for part of the occasion.

Complete Killie History HERE

Manager History HERE

Programme History HERE

 



 

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