In 1935, in the middle of the Depression, a grand infrastructural project was started to the southwest of Nijmegen: the construction of a city park of 65 hectare, which included among other things a large playing field, a stadium and an open-air theatre.
Starting from the beginning of the 20th century, large 'people's parks', where citizens could relax and recreate, were constructed in several German and English cities. In it could be found large sunbathing areas where large-scale events could take place, educational gardens and forests. These parks also functioned as green lungs to the often quickly expanding cities.
J.A.H. Steinweg, mayor of Nijmegen at that time, must have envisioned something like that, when he in 1932 launched the plan for the construction of a city park in Nijmegen. He entrusted the development of it to urban development engineer A. Siebers, who at that moment was responsible for making a city expansion plan. The city council already knew a location for the park: a stretch of farmland with some woods, located between Hatertsche Veldweg (now Muntweg), Wezenlaan and Jonkerbosch. The city had already bought this land.
To finance this plan, mayor Steinweg was looking towards The Hague, the political capital of the country. To somehow deal with the enormous amount of unemployment during the Depression, the national government subsidised large infrastructural projects executed by the unemployed, the so-called unemployment relief works. Steinweg, who stipulated government subsidy as a condition for execution of the city park plan, held negotiations with the minister of Social Services, J.R. Slotemaker de Bru´ne, and in November 1934, this minister promised the government subsidy. The construction could be started. Meanwhile, Messrs J.H. Schmidt and D. Monshouwer, both in municipal service, had completed the final design for the park in country style, based upon the Siebers' developed plans.
The fact that the project was paid by the unemployment relief fund implicated among other things that no mechanical shovels could be used during the construction of the park. Everything had to be done by hand: from the raising of small hills and the digging of the infamous 'bloedkuul' (local dialect for 'blood pit') to the construction of the stadium within this pit of six metres deep.
For four and a half years, 163 men a week worked hard for paltry wages. In the summer of 1939, city park 'De Goffert' was finally completed, and it was opened on July 9 of that year by Prince Bernhard.
The name of the city park derives from a century-old farm, which used to stand nearby the present-day Goffert Farm. The farm was named after a man who lived here around 1740, and whom the people from the neighbourhood called 'den goffert': a large, fat man. Remarkably, the farm had to give way to the park in the 1930's.
A large variety of recreational facilities was established in De Goffert. In the first place, there is a large playing field, which is used for diverse goals. Regularly, hot-air balloons ascend from this spot, or pop concerts are held. Tina Turner, Paul Simon and The Rolling Stones are just a few of the big names who performed here.
The Goffert stadium, home base of soccer club NEC, used to be one of the largest stadiums of the country with its 29,200 seats. Around the soccer field, which is six metre below ground level, there used to be an athletic- and cycling track until 1999. Apart from soccer, athletics and cycling games, there also used to be motor crosses and 'crazy races' in the stadium. And every year before the start of the Four Days Marches, the Flag Parade is held here. In 1999, the stadium was thoroughly reconstructed. The athletics and cycling-track disappeared; the stands were moved closer to the soccer field, and the number of seats was diminished to 12,500. Next to the stadium are some other sports fields.
The open-air theatre was part of the city park as well. Since the 1960's, the theatre was regularly confronted with setbacks and was twice closed for a long time. Since 1994, the open-air theatre is 'running' again, and in 1999 it got a thorough facelift.
Also established in the park were a rose garden, decorative gardens, a beehive, a bird park, a deer park, a children's farm, shelters, a tearoom and a new Goffert farm. The tearoom near the stadium was broken down around 1980, and one of the two shelters burned down.
In 1952, the Goffert was expanded from 65 to 83 hectare. In that year, the Goffert swimming pool was completed, as well as the heath land next to the Goffert farm.
In 1999-2000, the Goffert Park, which by this time was completely surrounded by urban building, was renovated for more than 10 million euro. The stadium was reconstructed, the open-air theatre restored and the park adapted to the wishes and demands of the present times. A roller blade track, half-pipe and a 'multisquare' are some of the new elements in the park. At the same time, new entrances were designed.