1986 - 1997
Remember the Bradford Dukes? In 1997 they sat proudly at the top in the sport of speedway. The Dukes had just won the Elite League title, but when the curtain came down on the season a full stop was added after twelve consecutive years of world class racing at Odsal Stadium.
Speedway has long been associated with Odsal Stadium. In all there have been three eras of racing activity at the famous venue, spanning the years 1945-1960, 1970-1975 and most recently 1985-1997. There was also a short-lived existence at the old Greenfield Stadium between 1961-1962.
But, when speedway returned to Odsal in 1985, after a ten-year absence, it was as ‘The Premier Racing Circuit’ on the British Speedway calendar. Wembley, long established as the spiritual home of speedway in this country, had last staged a World Individual Final in 1981 and Speedways governing body F.I.M adopted a revamped Odsal for its blue riband event in the UK.
Bradford Council were quick to seize on the prestige of being associated with a World event and rubber stamped £1m of work to create much of the Odsal Stadium that we are familiar with today. Speedway at the time was not enjoying the best of times. Then a minority interest sport living on the memories of the boom-bust post war years and ITV’s World of Sport aided mini revival in the early 1970’s.
After 10 long years in speedways wilderness to suddenly have the prospect of seeing the world’s top riders in Bradford was quite unbelievable. But, credit to the Council they backed it and the present Odsal emerged. A 40,000 crowd paid homage at the 1985 World Individual Final. So, with arguably the best facilities in speedway, it was no surprise when the Halifax speedway promoters decided to transfer their operation up the hill to Odsal, when upgrade work needed at The Shay made it unviable for the speedway.
In March 1986 Odsal opened its doors to Division One Speedway action for the first time since the 1950’s. Excitement quickly turned to tragedy with death of Kenny Carter and his wife Pam in a shooting incident at their home. Carter, then England and Bradford number one, was a loss the club struggled to overcome. However, supported by two of Bradford’s sporting sons, Bobby Ham (former City striker) and brother Allan (Park Avenue), the club steadily recovered into the early 1990’s when it began to see on track success.