Stadium plans offer new hope for Sheffield’s Eagles and Sharks

YEARS of promises and false dawns mean the hard-working people of Sheffield Eagles rugby league club and Sheffield Sharks basketball are of a mind to ‘believe it when they see it’.

Artist’s impression: How the community stadium on the Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park will look.

But there can be no doubting that last week’s announcement by the Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park that a new stadium to house the Eagles and a new community arena to be the home of the Sharks has given both clubs fresh cause for hope.

For these have been long battles.

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“I remember the first press conference we held on building our own stadium was back in 2013,” reflects Mark Aston, the Eagles head coach.

Mark Aston of Sheffield Eagles and Richard Caborn breaking ground on the new stadium at Olympic Legacy Park last year.

The Sharks have been raising funds for their own venue going back even further.

So the reticence on both parts to pop the champagne corks is understandable. But here is what has been announced.

Construction is due to begin this month on the Legacy Community Stadium on the site of the old Don Valley Stadium, where the Eagles played up until its demolition in 2013.

Once complete in around 12 months time it will accommodate 3,900 spectators and provide a home for Sheffield Eagles, alongside 23,000 sq. ft. of business, conference and ancillary space.

Sheffield Sharkswill move into a new Community Arena (Picture: Dean Atkins)

The stadium will be followed later in the year by the construction of a world-class diagnostic imaging lab and research centre for Canon Medical Systems and an arena for Sheffield Sharks.

The medical aspects of the project are in-keeping with the site as a whole, which in the wake of Don Valley’s demolition, became the Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park for health, wellbeing, education and sport.

Scarborough Group International has produced a master plan for the next phase of development which will see a further 850,000 sq. ft. of real estate development at SOLP, attracting investment of around £250m and creating 5,600 jobs.

The Eagles have played on a temporary ground within the park on occasion in recent years, but this has long been the vision for the club to have their own stadium.

Bird's eye view of the new Community Stadium at OLP

“Great news for the club, it’s a long time coming,” said Aston. “For the fans and everybody associated with the club, it’s been a tough six or seven years.

“We’ve had a few non-starters; two years ago, a year ago. So we were conscious not to say anything until we saw work started, but we have now been told by the people who are going to do it that it’s happening.

“Until the first spade goes into the soil, I’m always sceptical because we’ve said it too many times.

“But it can’t come quick enough. It’ll be good for attracting sponsors again and hopefully, fans, because with playing out of the city it doesn’t take them long to get disheartened and disconnected.

“That’s been tough for us. We need a home, we’ve always needed a home, and it means we can start building the club back up again.”

The new Community Arena will become the home of the Sharks and also provide community basketball facilities.

That is not as close to being finalised but after years of being short of funding to build their own venue, this new arena that will also have a Canon medical suite within it, could be revolutionary for the club and their sport.

Sarah Backovic, general manager of Sheffield Sharks, said: “It will be a new era for basketball in this area. We can join the likes of Newcastle, Leicester and London and get back on top.

“Basketball can develop so much in this area because of this facility.”

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