Derby County, Middlesbrough, Sunderland and Bolton, to name but a few, had all made the move, abandoning their outdated yet characterful grounds and, riding on the crest of the still fresh Premiership, had seen attendances rise and the money roll in.
Despite having already upgraded Highfield Road in the early- to mid-90s, the ground was plagued with the same problems as many other "traditional" stadia, being both hemmed in by housing, lacking any decent conference facilities and boasting few food outlets. And so it was that the plan to jump on the 'new stadium' bandwagon was announced.
This plan coincided with England's bid to host the 2006 World Cup and with Coventry selected as a potential host city (pending new stadium of course), it looked like the dream ticket!
|It could have been so...slidey...|
Around this time, I found myself wandering round the Sky Blues shop in town and spied a new publication. Being obsessed with football grounds, my eyes were immediately alerted by the image of a glowing architect's model of the proposed new Coventry stadium.
That publication was "a2", subtitled, "the official magazine of arena 2000 - the national arena in the heart of England".
Interestingly, it's marked as "Issue 1 Autumn/Winter 1999", though I'm pretty sure an Issue 2 was never forthcoming.
|It's all about the tiles...|
The magazine starts with an introduction from then chairman, Bryan Richardson, himself pictured with a large model of Arena 2000 and his final words sadly not in any way accurate... "The dream is now a reality".
|It's curtains for a2...sorry|
|A 'model' stadium|
Moving on, Bryan Richardson is here again to espouse the hopes and dreams in 'The Vision', which, aside from covering the why's, also deals with the hows and moreover the wheres as one of the few things that didn't change, the location being the old foleshill gasworks, is shown. The gasworks is later shown in various stages of demolition.
A final shout is given to the 2006 World Cup bid, showing a letter from the bid director Alec McGivan, where he states he'll be following the progress of Arena 2000 with interest.
So what happened to Arena 2000? Well, firstly, Coventry got relegated in 2001 and suddenly, spending a fortune on a 40,000 capacity stadium didn't seem like such a good idea. Then, Germany were given the 2006 World Cup (but at least that was really badly organised eh? Oh...) and the last chance of a serious wodge of cash to spend on the stadium disappeared. The plans were scaled back, Ricoh arrived as last minute stadium sponsors and attendances ultimately plummeted as Coventry struggled to acclimatise to their new surroundings in Division 1, despite a 3-0 opening day victory. To this day, the only time the place has been full for a CCFC match was in the quarter final of the FA Cup against Chelsea - a match where the London side took the spoils.
|A good start at the Ricoh|
Given the current furore over the ownership and rental agreements of the Ricoh Arena, it's somewhat sad to see the potential that never was realised, the compromise, identikit ground we finally ended up with and the cold reality that replaced the fantastical hopes and aspirations.
Truly, the things that nightmares are made of.