Until last Thursday, my previous visit to the Abbey Stadium, Blunsdon - home of Swindon speedway - was over twenty years ago. I got the supporters' coach down from Coventry - as I did to so many places back then - and it must have been late season because I remember it being dark as I entered the stadium. We were handed forms to vote for Swindon's rider of the year and, as he'd just been sacked by them, Coventry fans voted for Andrew Silver en masse. I don't know if he won in the end.
It's probably fair to say that, like a lot of speedway stadiums, Swindon hasn't changed a lot in the intervening years. The ageing main grandstand is still there, on the home straight, facing a stand that seems to defy time on the back straight. As for the toilets that lurk behind it, I hear Time Team are coming in to excavate it. They may even find Swindon's last title win, buried under Roman remains.
There's a movement within speedway, led by BSI, to put stadium before everything else. Damn the quality of racing, damn the ticket price, just look at the plush surroundings, and forget that you have to pay £8 for a beer and take out a mortgage to eat!
You know what, though? I'd much rather watch my speedway at Blundson, or at Coventry, or at Poole, or any of the other stadiums that have seen better days. It suits the sport, and it makes for a pleasant night out, not worrying about cost too much, or the heirs and graces that come when you remove the spit and sawdust.
That's not to say Swindon is a dump. Far from it. It's a tidy stadium that could do with a few thousand spent here and there, but isn't too much the worse for not having that. Although difficulties with the track meant the racing was pretty much horrible, the temperature dropped alarmingly and, yes, the lights could be brighter and the tannoy a little quieter, I enjoyed my visit.
Speedway is lucky in that it still laregly takes place in stadiums with character, unlike the soulless, retail park arenas that football has moved into. Long may it continue.