King's Park Soccer Stadium, right across the Walter Gilbert Road, from King's Park Rugby Stadium, is currently being rebuilt, amid some controversy, for the Soccer World Cup in 2010. My informant Gerald Buttigieg sent in a news clipping on the building of the original stadium and, later, some info on the rugby stadium, and what must must have been one of the first major matches played there. Allan Jackson - 6 March 2007.

A news clipping showing New Kingsmead soccer and cricket stadium under construction in 1960. It was later renamed as King's Park Soccer stadium. Clipping courtesy G Buttigieg.

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The two King's Parks

It seems that, until the late 1950s, much of the sport in Durban took place at the Lord's Ground off Old Fort Road. It then gradually moved away to the area around Walter Gilbert Road because Lords Ground was required for the building of a Municipal Centre and other land had had become available with the closure of Stamfordhill Airport.

The following is an extract from a souvenir brochure to mark the opening of The Municipal Centre, Old Fort Road, Durban on 3rd October 1957. The opening was performed by the Mayor, Councillor Percy Osborn.

"His Worship the Mayor sponsored the proposal that a New Municipal centre should be established in the vicinity of the Old Fort, but several other problems then presented themselves, since the ground surrounding the Old Fort was under lease to the Durban Football and Cricket Grounds Association and rugby and cricket as well as athletics was accommodated in this area. It therefore meant that before any Municipal scheme could be furthered, other homes had to be found for these activities and the terms of reference of the Sub-Committee were enlarged to include the development of King's park and of Kingsmead. The very fine Kings Park scheme, which is now nearing completion, gives rugby, athletics and archery, homes which compare with any in the country, while cricket will be allowed the use of the rugby fields during the summer season. The equestrian section of Kings Park, when completed, will also rank amongst the finest in the country." Snippet courtesy Gerald Buttigieg.

From this, it seems likely that King's Park Rugby Stadium opened in 1958, or so. On the subject of the move of the sports facilities, Gerald wrote:

" Lord's Ground (do not know why it is called Lord's) used to be a vast flat area off Old Fort Road where just about all school junior cricket and rugby was played in the 50s. I remember playing rugby [and socccer. Ed.] there on Saturday mornings and one must remember that it was a convenient central point, people did not travel to schools to watch junior rugby. The whole ground was fenced with corrugated iron.

In the same area was an army ground and drill hall which is still there. Alongside the army ground was a road which ran alongside and at the back was a Government Telephone Department Yard, vehicle park area and store called "Lord's Ground". It is still there. Lord's Ground sport fields in winter were marked out into Soccer and Rugby fields and Durban's amateur Soccer and Rugby league matches were played there till rugby moved to the new King's Park in Walter Gilbert Road circa 1958.

Soccer then remained until the New Kingsmead stadium was built, circa 1961, alongside King's Park and amateur soccer was then played on the fields provided alongside the new stadium. (This is the one they have just pulled down). I seem to recall that the stadium was not a success because the stadium was to be a replacement for Old Kingsmead, which had got very run down; the old pavilion being the only structure, was wood and iron while all the stands were metal structures with plank seats.

However, the New Kingsmead did not work out because the stadium seating ended too far away from the soccer pitch which was marked out in the middle of a cricket arena. However because of the popularity of soccer in the 60s with the advent of the NFL (Durban City, Durban United, Addington teams etc) the New Kingsmead was taken into use and I stand to be corrected here, but I seem to recall that the soccer pitch was brought up close to the main pavilion stand and on the opposite side temporary seating was erected for the soccer season.

In the 1980s this venue was used for the Durban Tattoo which lasted a few years and then eventually it reverted to a soccer ground mainly for African league soccer. [It was also used for a while as a hot rod and stock car oval track after these exciting sports moved from Hoy Park. One other thing that must be mentioned about King's Park Soccer Stadium, is that hosts and hosts of Durbanites used its parking lots to practice their parallel parking for their driving tests. Often, you could hardly move in there with flocks of driving instructors waving frustratedly at their erratically-reversing pupils. Allan Jackson]

The cycle stadium named Cyril Geoghegan (spelling could be wrong) was completed with the rugby stadium opposite the Windsor Park Golf Course. I was at school with his sons. The stadium still exists. As does the Athletic Track and the Archery Field both of which survive today.

Clipping courtesy G Buttigieg
Click to view enlargement

The picture of King's Park was taken on the day of the game which was Natal vs. The All Blacks and was played on 31st May 1960 which was Union Day, a public holiday. I was there at the ground that day as all schools in Durban were invited to attend and we sat on the grass round the field perimeter. The game ended in a 6 all draw and was Natal's finest achievement to date, Natal never having won the Currie Cup in its history. This came much later.

Union Day was celebrated because the 4 provinces formed the Union of South Africa on 31st May 1910. The next year, 1961, it became Republic Day because South Africa opted out of the Commonwealth and was declared a Republic on 31st May 1961. Every school going child was given a bronze medal to commemorate the day.

Picture courtesy G Buttigieg
Click to view enlargement

At some point, New Kingsmead was renamed King's Park Soccer Stadium. It seems likely that the cricketing authorities decided to stick with Old Kingsmead, which in now known just as Kingsmead.

The (as yet undated) news clipping, above, shows Old Kingsmead falling into dilapidation. The news clipping, above, with resoration in progress after the decision had been taken to stock with the old cricket stadium.
Clippings courtesy G Buttigieg. Click to view enlargements.



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