The idea of Rovers moving away from Belle Vue and into a new, purpose-built stadium had been discussed as early in the mid-1980s. Following the 1985 Bradford Fire tragedy sports grounds were required by government to meet increasingly stringent safety requirements. Several clubs, including Scunthorpe United and Walsall, began the process of selling their current grounds to move into new stadia. Rovers’ problem was that they leased Belle Vue from Doncaster Council, and since the club did not have the money required to build the stadium on their own, they would need money from the sale of Belle Vue, which was not theirs to sell. The council was reluctant to approve the change of land use that would enable the Belle Vue site to be developed for non-sporting purposes and to spend ratepayers’ money on supporting a private club.
In 1993, when Dinard Trading Ltd. Took over control of the club, their representative, Ken Richardson, made moving out of Belle Vue a key priority. However, his aggressive tactics alienated the council and by 1996 relations between the club and the local authority had virtually broken down. It was only in 1998, after Westferry had bought the club from Dinard and Richardson, and John Ryan had been appointed Chairman, that talks about the possibility of a new stadium reopened. However, by November 2001 Ryan had become frustrated by the lack of progress and resigned as Chairman while also heavily criticizing the council. In 2002 the council responded by launching a feasibility study into a new stadium with a capacity of 10,000.
Rovers’ promotion to the Football League in 2003 and subsequent Division Three title win put the question of a new stadium firmly back on the agenda. In the summer of 2004, the council, led by elected Mayor Martin Winter, had approved plans for Rovers to move to a new community stadium in the Lakeside area, to be home for Rovers, Doncaster Rugby League Club (the Dons) and the Doncaster Belles. To reflect Rovers’ upwardly mobile status, the capacity would be 15,000.
In September 2005 the contract to build the stadium was awarded and work started a month later. The stadium was ready for use by January 2007, mid-way through the 2006-07 season. In November 2006, local building company Keepmoat plc secured the naming rights to the stadium. Although the Dons had the honour of staging the first match at the stadium, against Sheffield Eagles on 27th December 2006, Rovers’ opening game a few days later really captured the local public’s interest. A crowd of 14,470 saw Rovers beat Huddersfield Town 3-0 on 1st January 2007, with Mark McCammon scoring the stadium’s first goal after nine minutes.
The capacity of the stadium is officially 15,231 and the cost of the stadium itself was approximately £20 million. The cost of the overall stadium complex, including the athletics stadium and the football pitches, was approximately £32 million. The official opening took place on 3rd August 2007 when Rovers hosted a Manchester United XI, who won 2-0 in front of a crowd of 13,080.
The Keepmoat Stadium’s record attendance came a few months after the opening game when a crowd of 15,001 saw Rovers lose 0-1 to Leeds United on 1st April 2008. Rovers gained revenge the following month when they beat Leeds by the same score at Wembley in the play-off final to secure promotion to the Championship.
Originally the stadium was run by a Stadium Management Company which was responsible to the council as the owners of the stadium. However, some of the other events held at the stadium, including concerts, were not a financial success. As a result, in June 2012, it was confirmed that Rovers had secured a 99-year operating lease to lead the management of the stadium.