There cannot be too many grounds in the Non League Pyramid that have undergone such a dramatic transformation as West Leigh Park, which has been almost totally rebuilt in less than four years.
The Hawks were formed as recently as 1998 following the amalgamation between Havant Town and Waterlooville. With the latter facing severe financial difficulties they decided to sell up their Jubilee Ground and move in with Havant, rather than die and completely fade away.
The old West Leigh Park ground was unusual in that, despite dating from as recently as 1983, it looked much older ... and had the necessary character to go with it. The revamped stadium has nothing of that essential ingredient, but is a well-maintained and attractive modern ground nonetheless.
Before acquiring West Leigh Park on a 99 year lease, Havant Town played their games at the enigmatically-named Front Lawn ground, but due to the boggy nature of the new site, it was two years before they could move in and take up residence. A wooden main stand was erected when the club moved upwards into the Wessex League. The view was was impeded by the eight pillars that supported its flat roof, but with the dugouts immediately in front, it did have a good atmosphere. There was also ample covered terracing and a large grassed bank. The fact that one of the turnstiles originally saw service at Fratton Park will be of interest to Portsmouth fans.
My first visit to West Leigh Park came in the autumn of 1999, and it was something of a shock to see how much had changed on returning in September 2003.
A new 562-seat stand has replaced the older version and is identical to those found at Harrow Borough and Eastbourne Borough, to name just two other examples. It provides a fine unimpeded view of the action and is set off very nicely by seats in the club colours, with ‘HWFC’ also picked out.
Both ends have several steps of concrete terracing, and are covered with modern metal cladded shelters. Health and safety regulations mean that there is the requisite ‘paddock area’ between the perimeter fence and the first step of terrace, guarded by crush barriers. The end nearest to the turnstiles has been christened the Seward Suzuki stand who have evidently sponsored it.
The dugouts are now located opposite the stand, on the far touchline, which is currently open to the elements. Here the terracing is slightly shallower than that behind the goals.
Visiting West Leigh Park in 1995 Kerry Miller wrote:
‘Havant Town’s marvellous West Leigh Park ground is a rare commodity in that it is only 12 years old yet was built in a style which echoes some of our old market town grounds of the pre-war days ... The pleasing part is that whether through necessity or design, the indiscriminate use of concrete has been avoided’.
Oh well ...
Take the A27 from Chichester and exit at the B2149 turn-off for Havant. Take the 2nd exit off the dual carriageway into Bartons Road, and then the 1st right into Martin Road for the ground.
Havant (BR): 1 mile