Although located some 280 miles (450 km) north of the heart of the London Games, St. James' Park in Newcastle will see its share of Olympic action. Venerable St. James' will play host to nine Olympic football matches beginning on Thursday July 26, when Mexico plays South Korea and Gabon takes on Switzerland.
Location: SJP is located in central Newcastle, adjacent to verdant Leazes Park.
Year Built: St. James' has been hosting football matches since 1880. Since 1892, the stadium has been home to Newcastle United Football Club, winner of four League Championships and six FA Cups. Despite nearly a century and a half of storied history, St. James' is a surprisingly modern venue. That's because the stadium underwent a £25 million pound ($38 million) renovation in 1992. Due to corporate sponsorship, the venue is officially known as the Sports Direct Arena, but during the Olympics old St. James' will be called by its more traditional name.
Seating Capacity: SJP seats 52,387 spectators, making it the Britain's third largest club football stadium after Old Trafford (Manchester United) and Emirates Stadium (Arsenal). It is the sixth largest football stadium in the United Kingdom. In 1930, when standing was permitted on the terraces, 68,386 fans packed into SJP for a match against Chelsea, a record that still stands today.
Unique Features: St. James' contains conference and banquet facilities with room to host 2,500 people. The crown jewel among these is the Bamburgh Suite, which can hold 1,000 and features a stage, a dance floor and three bars. Speaking of bars, there are plenty of them in SJP, including Shearer's Bar, named after Newcastle legend Alan Shearer, which is accessible only from outside the stadium. It is a popular night spot in central Newcastle.
Post-Olympic Use: SJP will go back to hosting Newcastle Football Club matches after the Olympics wrap up. But the 2012 Games won't be the last time the venue plays host to international sporting competition. Indeed, St. James' will see action as England hosts the 2015 Rugby World Cup, when 14 nations will compete for the vaunted Webb Ellis Cup.
Brett Wilkins has been an Olympics fan since 1980's 'Miracle on Ice' and has attended the 1996 Atlanta Games.
- Sports & Recreation