The ground redevelopment

A view of Sophia Gardens during the One-Day International between Australia and Pakistan in 2001. Photo Credit – Glamorgan Cricket Archives.

Glamorgan’s plans for the development of Sophia Gardens were significantly boosted in 2004 as the Welsh county, once again, won the National League besides reaching Finals Day of the Twenty20 competition and successfully staging further One-Day Internationals at Sophia Gardens. With the day-night contests attracting bumper crowds, it was a clear sign that the installation of permanent floodlights at Sophia Gardens would be a shrewd investment. Planning permission was secured for the erection, initially of four stacks, plus a small sub-station adjacent to the Wooller Gates.

A day-night match at Sophia Gardens in 2005, under the new floodlights. Photo Credit – Glamorgan Cricket Archives.

Installation took place during the Spring of 2005 and on 22 April 2005 the floodlights were formally switched on by David Morgan, the Chairman of the ECB, who when Chairman of Glamorgan in the mid 1990s had done so much to progress the stadium development scheme and the acquisition of the lease from Cardiff Athletic Club. Even though the day-night contest against the Essex Eagles was washed out, the glow of the lights over the Cardiff ground marked the dawn of the final phase of the ground development and the acquisition of the greatest prize of all – Test cricket.

The Stadium for Wales Appeal logo. Image Credit – Glamorgan Cricket Archives.

In 2003 the Club had created a group – under the Chairmanship of Gareth Williams – named “The National Cricket Stadium for Wales Appeal” which kick-started the fundraising for the ground development besides highlighting the grand plans masterminded by Club Chairman Paul Russell. A further boost came from reports showing the immense economic benefits the Millennium Stadium had brought to Cardiff. Following the closure of Wembley Stadium for redevelopment, the Cardiff venue had staged the F.A. Cup final and other major sporting events, so with Wembley Stadium nearing completion, the City Council were keen to find other high-profile sporting events which would keep the name of Cardiff on the world stage. After England’s success in the 2005 Ashes, with Simon Jones in the winning team, what better than an Ashes Test being allocated to Sophia Gardens!

During 2005/06, a bid was formulated, with the support of the Council, the Chamber of Commerce and the Welsh Assembly Government for Glamorgan to make a bid to stage an Ashes Test match in 2009. A revised ground development plan was also submitted to the City Council, with the plans entirely in keeping with the parkland setting and enhancing the vista of the immediate locality. Glamorgan also confirmed their bid to the ECB for the Category ‘A’ ground status required for Test Match Cricket and at the end of March 2006, a visit was made to Sophia Gardens by the newly-instigated Major Match Group (MMG) – the body empowered by the ECB to decide upon the allocation of major matches to various grounds – with the group listening to various presentations from Glamorgan officials, and others from the Welsh Assembly and Cardiff Council.

Chairman Paul Russell shows Shadow Secretary of State Mrs Cheryl Gillan and Alun Cairns AM, the plans for the redevelopment of Sophia Gardens as ministers from the Welsh Government visit Glamorgan Cricket. Photo Credit – Glamorgan Cricket Archives.

On 20 April 2006 the ECB announced that Glamorgan Cricket had been given the right to host an Ashes Test against Australia in 2009. The following month, Cardiff Council’s Planning Committee  approved Glamorgan’s plans for the Stadium redevelopment and, during the summer, demolition work began at Sophia Gardens. In mid-September, the old pavilion was used for the final time for Glamorgan’s Championship match against Gloucestershire, whilst by January 2007 construction work had begun on the new pavilion complex, plus the new grandstand on the site of the former pavilion, and the Media Centre complex at the Cathedral Road End. The building work continued during the summer of 2007 as Glamorgan staged a number of home games away from Cardiff. The contractors – Carillion – handed the new Stadium over to Glamorgan Cricket on 17 March 2008 and on 9 May, the Welsh county played their inaugural match – a day-night contest against Gloucestershire – in their completed new Stadium.

A view of the redeveloped Sophia Gardens as Glamorgan meet Gloucestershire in the Friends Provident Trophy in 2009. Photo Credit – Glamorgan Cricket Archives.