Ten years of Stadium MK: No threat of the ground being a white elephant

Pete Winkelman
Pete Winkelman

Pete Winkelman had no doubts building a stadium in Milton Keynes would be a success.

The Dons chairman finally realised his dream when ground broke on Stadium MK in February 2005, with his side in a League 1 relegation dogfight - one they would go on to lose.

Stadium MK opened 10 years ago today (July 18) to home a club in the fourth tier of English football, but they secured a return to League 1 by winning the title and securing automatic promotion.

While average attendances have hovered around the 10,000 mark, despite boasting a 33,000 capacity, Winkelman said he never worried he was building a while elephant.

He said: “I was never concerned by that because of the size of Milton Keynes. It’s only us getting the football wrong stopping us filling it every week. We always hear how good Milton Keynes is, we have to deliver as well as he have off the pitch on the pitch. And nobody knows that more than me.

“It has been an amazing journey, I’ve met some great people. I was in the right place at the right time.

“We had the chance to build the stadium and I feel we’ve delivered.

“We’ve learned a lot over the last 10 years, and anything can happen in a season but you need the tools to compete at the highest level.

“And that’s what MK is all about, everything we’ve done is aiming to compete at the top level and we’ve done that with this stadium.”

A stadium in Milton Keynes had initially been planned at the National Bowl. Winkelman was part of a plan to build a sports facility at the concert venue back in 1997 but plans were scuppered, and Denbigh North was chosen instead.

“I was very lucky, because the city had been looking for a stadium since 1973,” said the Dons chairman.

“When I got involved in 1997 when the Bowl came on the market, I got together with a bunch of property designers to see what could be done there.

“The concept was simple - concerts in the summer, football in the winter.

“But that was much harder to deliver because the Bowl is sat in a large residential area, and while people there much accept three concerts a year, they wouldn’t accept 30-odd football matches a year.

“So after another test, we chose Denbigh North.”