University of Bolton Stadium
Address: Burnden Way,
Capacity: 28,723 (All-Seater)
A fantastic stadium that’s perfectly fit for the modern game. The University of Bolton Stadium is the beating heart of a local retail park, it’s just a shame that it isn’t closer to the centre of Bolton.
Built between 1996 and 1997, it has been the home of Bolton Wanderers Football Club ever since its opening. Bolton had originally played at Burnden Park for 102 years.
The move came about following the release of the Taylor Report in 1990, which made it a requirement for all teams in the top two divisions of English football to have all-seater stadiums. Bolton at the time were a third division side with aims of achieving promotion, and by the time that promotion happened the club’s owners had already made the decision to build a new stadium in a different location as opposed to redeveloping Burnden Park.
Upon its opening, the ground was known as the Reebok Stadium after the club’s long-term sponsors. This was changed to the Macron Stadium in July 2014, and then again to the University of Bolton Stadium in August 2018.
Location and Getting There
The University of Bolton Stadium is located in Horwich, a small town around five miles west of the centre of Bolton. It is a key landmark in the Middle Brook Retail Park which also includes The Bolton Arena, out beyond the stadium’s West Stand.
Being part of a retail park, there are car parking spaces aplenty, though the ones outside the stadium’s North Stand can be very expensive. Parking in the Middle Brook Retail Park is available, but can be difficult to find on a Saturday due to the high numbers of shoppers present at weekends.
Another way of finding free parking is to head more into Horwich, but that does admittedly mean you will have to walk a fair distance from your vehicle to the stadium.
Coming by rail is a much more suitable option.
Horwich Parkway is the nearest station, just a five minute walk away from the stadium’s West Stand.
Outside the Stadium
The West Stand is the largest of the four.
Its exterior, like the rest of the bowl-shaped stadium, is made out of large white panels and rows of glass windows, but the middle of the West Stand has a large brick building protruding out of it.
The stadium’s Main Reception is in the centre of the glass façade, and there are turnstiles (A-B and C-D) at either end of the structure underneath large Bolton Wanderers Club Badges.
Outside of Turnstiles A and B over by the northwest corner is a statue of Nat Lofthouse.
Born in Bolton on 27th August 1925, Lofthouse was a centre-forward who spent his entire career at his hometown club as both player and manager. Nicknamed "The Lion of Vienna," he made more than 452 league appearances for Bolton and scored 255 league goals, alongside winning the FA Cup in 1958 after being involved in the famous 'Matthews Final' between Bolton and Blackpool five years earlier.
Capped 33 times by England, scoring 30 International goals, Nat Lofthouse passed away on 15th January 2011 at the age of 85. The statue of him outside the University of Bolton Stadium has been in place since August 2013.
The whole stadium has a cantilever roof up at the top and the floodlights are housed on top of each corner, with large poles coming down from them that are fixed into the ground outside. The blue roof curves up and down on each side, creating a wave-like effect that can be seen on both the inside and the outside of the stadium.
The North Stand is made up mostly of white panels with a giant glass pane in the centre, and an executive entrance is inside of this.
Turnstiles (M-P) are spread evenly across the base.
Out beyond this North Stand is the main bulk of the University of Bolton Stadium’s car parks.
The East Stand is also known as the Nat Lofthouse Stand after the aforementioned Bolton legend.
Like the West Stand, there is a large building protruding out of the centre, but this is one is made of large blue panels with red brickwork and glass windows at the base. Inside is the entrance to Bolton’s Premier Suites, and there is a skywalk running overhead from one side of the path outside the Nat Lofthouse Stand to the other. The turnstiles for the Nat Lofthouse Stand are I-L.
Bolton’s Official Club Shop and Main Ticket Office can be found in the building opposite to the Nat Lofthouse Stand, with a spiral staircase next to the Club Shop that leads you to the retail park above.
The South Stand’s exterior is dominated by the Bolton Whites Hotel. Its main building protrudes out the front of the stand and the entrance is underneath in the centre.
Turnstiles into the South Stand itself (E-H) are spread out on either side, and another of the club’s car parks is out beyond here.
Inside the Stadium
The West Stand Is divided into two tiers, with the lower level slightly larger and a row of executive boxes separating the two from one another. Two thirds of the seats in the lower tier are coloured blue whilst the seats towards the back of the tier are red. Every seat in the upper tier is blue but the blocks collectively form a semi-circle shape, similar to the roof overhead.
Bolton’s executive seating can be found in the centre of the lower tier and the club’s dugouts are down below. The changing rooms are inside the West Stand and there are also two tunnels, one on either side of the dugouts. The home team enter and exit the pitch through one and the away team enter and exit the pitch through the other.
Because of the cantilever roof above, there are no supporting pillars coming down and so your view of the pitch is perfectly clear from any seat.
Every corner of the University of Bolton Stadium is single-tiered.
Each maintains the design of the lower tier in the West Stand, being made up mostly of blue seats with that same strip of red seating up at the back. As a result of this, the red seating collectively forms a continuous band that runs the entire way around the stadium.
The North Stand is essentially a smaller version of the adjacent West Stand.
It is made of two tiers with the same row of executive boxes separating the two from one another. The lower tier has mostly blue seating with that same strip of red seating up towards the back row, whilst the whole upper tier is blue.
There are no supporting pillars coming down from the cantilever roof and so you have a great view of the pitch from any seat inside it.
The Nat Lofthouse Stand mirrors the design of the West Stand opposite but does not have the blocks of executive seating in its lower tier. It instead has two copies of the Macron logo made out of white seating in its bottom tier and the letters MACRON spelt out in white along the upper tier blocks. The O in MACRON is made out of a hollow version of the same logo which features down below.
Executive boxes separate the two tiers and there are no supporting pillars coming down that would restrict your view.
The South Stand is an near exact carbon-copy of the North Stand opposite.
The same number of tiers. The same row of boxes between them. The same seating arrangement out on both levels. The same absence of supporting pillars coming down from the roof. You would get the same view of the action sitting at either end of the University of Bolton Stadium.
The only notable difference comes in the southwest corner, where there is a large electronic screen above the seating area that displays a live scoreboard during the match.
Away fans are housed behind the goal in the South Stand.
Exactly where in the stand they go depends on the allocation. Smaller crowds are housed in just the upper tier, which is already segregated from the rest of the stadium, and you usually find on those occasions that the lower tier is left empty.
When bigger crowds are expected, both tiers are used, with large sheets and rows of stewards used to segregate the travelling fans in the lower tier from any home fans sat nearby.
Regardless of the size of the away section, you are treated to a perfectly clear view of the action from any seat and every row is well protected by the stadium's enclosed design.
Pubs available to supporters on a matchday include:
-The Barnstormers (Lostock Lane, BL6 4BL) (Away Supporters Welcome)
-The Bee Hive (991 Chorley Road, BL6 4BA) (Popular with Away Supporters)
-The Middlebrook Retail Park (37 The Linkway, BL6 6JA) (Typically Home Supporters Only)
-The Spinning Mule (Nelson Square, BL1 1JT) (A JD Wetherspoon Pub, Typically Home and Away Supporters) (Located near Bolton Station and a fair distance from the University of Bolton Stadium itself)
There is a fantastic level of consistency and balance to the University of Bolton Stadium. Every effort has been made to give fans a comfortable experience both before, during and after the match has taken place.
There’s food available pre-game from the retail park, more than another parking spaces for those coming by car to use, and a very well-placed train station for those coming by rail.
It’s just a shame that the ground isn’t in the heart of Bolton itself. Fewer home fans want to travel outside of the place they live in to go and see their local team, even if it is a top-quality stadium that they get to see them play at. Perhaps the University of Bolton Stadium can be considered more suitable for the travelling football fan than the local football fan.
It’s certainly still worth coming to nonetheless.