Central Park, also known as the 'Racewall', is a dual-purpose sports stadium in Cowdenbeath, a small1 town in Fife, Scotland. The term 'stadium' might in fact appear rather grand for this ground - pictured here - which has a capacity of only 5,268.
The two sports which currently take place at Central Park on a regular basis are football and stock car-racing, although greyhound racing has taken place at the venue in the past.
The Stadium Itself
Central Park does not fit the normal image one might have of a sports stadium - three sides of the ground are terraced, although the east and west-end terraces are not particularly popular areas for football spectators to stand, as they are set back quite a way from the pitch.
The reason they are set back is the oval racing track that encircles the pitch. A short crash barrier separates the track from the pitch, and a metre-high, thick concrete wall separates the track from the spectators. These obstacles also mean that the front couple of rows in the main stand don't enjoy particularly good views of the pitch, and are thus normally left empty. The football pitch is the smallest in the Scottish League, measuring just 107 yards long and 66 yards wide.
The views from the north and south sides of the ground are much better, being nearer to the action2. The south side is a full terrace with a scoreboard at the back, which is used by both the football club and stock car-racing organisers - although obviously in a different way. Under the scoreboard there is a food vendor and toilets built into the same structure.
It is, however, on the north side of the ground that most of the facilities are located. When one enters the ground through the turnstiles in the north-east corner of the ground the first thing one sees, if it is a football match, is the programme vendor, selling copies of The Blue Brasilian3 matchday magazine. Behind the vendor, (or indeed the first thing one sees if a football match is not on), is a flight of stone steps leading to the east terrace. By walking around the east terrace, one can access the south and west terraces.
If you turn away from the steps, you'll find the cabin containing (depending on the event taking place) either the football club shop or the racing memorabilia shop. Walking along the north side of the ground, looking away from the pitch, a large concreted area which resembles a car park can be seen, although this is in fact the pits used for the stock car-racing. Looking the other way, the grandstand is noticeable. This is split into two sections - the 'old grandstand', which is in fact only half of the grandstand from earlier in the ground's history, and seats 1000 in wooden seats, while the 'new stand' seats 500 and features plastic tip-up seats as seen in most newly constructed football stands and stadia.
The main stands also contain access to a food vendor, toilets, motor-racing equipment shop and a bar.
Cowdenbeath FC, despite being at the unfashionable end of the Scottish League, do own their own ground - although the car park was sold to Fife council for a nominal fee in the early 1990s and is now a public car park. The car park was sold as the club could no longer afford to maintain it and it was described by one fan as 'so full of craters Neil Armstrong wouldn't go near it' before the council took control and resurfaced it.
The major facilities of the ground, as mentioned above, are as follows:
- North Stand, 'new grandstand': food and drinks vendor, bar.
- North Stand, 'old grandstand': toilets, racing equipment shop.
- South terrace, under scoreboard: food and drinks vendor, toilets
- North-east corner: football club/track shop.4
History of Central Park
Central Park first began hosting football in 1917 and has also hosted various other sporting events over the years - it has most notably become a home of stock car-racing since 1965.
Over the years the ground has changed little, the main changes occurring after the fire which destroyed half of the old main stand, and the building of the 'new' main stand, opened in 1993 by then local MP Gordon Brown5.
Other changes included the loss of the popular 'Coo Shed'6, a canopy covering the west end terrace. Unfortunately the structure was blown away by a storm in 1983.
The ground has had floodlight pylons since 1968. The football club regularly packed over 10,000 people into the ground in the 1920s and 1930s, an era when they were a top division club, and the stock car-racing has seen crowds in excess of 10,000 on isolated occasions. Tougher safety restrictions since the Bradford Stadium disaster in the 1980s led to a severe restriction in attendance, although even the current capacity of over 5,000 is rarely even approached, as average crowds in the area of 300 to 400 show. Occasionally, a cup game or a big racing meeting will see the crowd boosted to a couple of thousand.
One of the reasons for Central Park becoming a lot more barren place than it used to be is the end of the mining industry in the area. Cowdenbeath was primarily a mining town, and once the mines closed, people either moved away, got jobs which would keep them away from the football, or they couldn't afford to attend sporting events.
Central Park has been home to Cowdenbeath Football Club, since 1917, when the club relocated from their previous home, North End Park. The club remains there to this day, although the days when it could pack 25,000 into the ground are long gone. The 25,586 who attended a 1949 match with Glasgow Rangers is the highest attendance for any sport at the venue. Football is the primary function of the ground, and the presence of other sports is largely due to the football club's need for extra finances - the financial turnover generated by hosting Scottish lower-league football isn't exactly overwhelming. Cowdenbeath are one of just a few Scottish Football League sides still playing in an oval stadium.
The club is currently in the Scottish Second Division, although back in the 1920s and 1930s they played at the highest level - they have rarely been back since - playing in the top division briefly in 1939/40 and 1970/71.
The oval racing track circling the football pitch is a popular venue for stock car-racing, and other motor sports. Speedway is another sport which has graced the venue. The racing community refer to Central Park as 'the Cowdenbeath Racewall' due to the one metre-high and one metre-thick wall which borders the track.
The racewall hosts around four race meetings a month, and is a very popular venue for enthusiasts to attend cheap race meetings in an intimate venue. The bar in the main stand also shows the meetings on a big screen, so that spectators can watch in warmth if the weather is inclement.
In 1977, the Racewall hosted the World Stock Car championships, attended by around 15,000 spectators, an attendance rarely bettered by the football club, and never by the Racewall.
In addition to football and stock car-racing, Central Park has played host to greyhound racing, speedway and monster truck rallies. There is also a weekly open-air market held within the confines of the stadium. All these events have really been fund-raising measures for the cash-strapped football club.
Central Park is handily located just off Cowdenbeath High Street, and well signposted from the High Street. It is approximately five minutes' walk from the Cowdenbeath rail station, and there are trains from Edinburgh on a regular basis, making it easily accessible by that route.
To get to Central Park by road, leave the A92 at Cowdenbeath, and look out for signs from the High Street. Parking is available in a public car park outside the ground.