All systems go for the Rams' pounds 16m spaceship

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The Independent Online
Having twice before turned down moves to more expansive quarters, Derby were simply following historical precedent when they rejected the opportunity to relocate to the new Pride Park development, a little over a mile from the Baseball Ground, writes Jon Culley.

The Rams were invited to take 35 acres of a 200-acre site behind the city's main railway station, part of a project awarded pounds 37.5m in Government funding under the City Challenge scheme.

But after three years of negotiations, and despite the advantages of easy access, ample parking, and a 30,000-seat state-of-the-art stadium, chairman Lionel Pickering imitated his predecessors in 1924 and 1946 by choosing to stay put, planning to spend pounds 10m on a rebuilt 27,000-seat Baseball Ground.

However, unlike his forebears, Pickering changed his mind. Pride Park returned with a better offer, their own priorities having shifted when Greenwich was chosen to host the Millennium celebrations, leaving them needing the football club as a showpiece.

The decision to move was announced in February 1996, two weeks before work was due to start on the Baseball Ground.

Derby's unnamed new home is already a slightly surreal landmark on the city's bleakly derelict eastern skyline, where it might almost be mistaken for an alien spacecraft. It has cost pounds 16m, offset by a pounds 3.5m grant from the Football Trust.

The Baseball Ground will not vanish straight away. It will host reserve and youth team fixtures while the pitch at the new stadium beds in.