On Friday, Wakefield Council announced its intention to give up to £2million to Castleford Tigers as part of a new Rugby League Resilience Fund to invest in their current stadium and improve community use.
Planning permission for a new 10,000 seater Super League ground, together with a retail development right next to Junction 32, was given in 2015 but the building of the stadium will no longer be happening.
Castleford plan to use the proposed investment from the Council to help towards funding a major redevelopment of Wheldon Road to bring the club’s famous home up to modern standards.
Subject to securing the investment from the Rugby League Resilience fund - which will be discussed at a Wakefield Council meeting on Monday - key elements of the club’s proposals would be to demolish and rebuild a new Main Stand, and modernise the existing Princess Street Stand, Railway End, and Wheldon Road End.
New facilities, including food and drink outlets and hospitality suites would also be built along with new conference facilities and meeting rooms.
Mark Grattan, Castleford Tigers RLFC Managing Director said: “We welcome the Council’s announcement on making a contribution towards our plans to improve our home stadium on Wheldon Road. There is already an urgent need to invest significant sums to keep Wheldon Road functioning as a Super League ground.
"Being realistic about the timeframes to deliver the retail and leisure development with the new stadium following the Covid-19 pandemic, from the club’s perspective we believe that the time is right to explore the option of staying at our historic home.
"We believe that, although major new investment is needed to improve the existing stadium, this would now be in the best long-term interests of Castleford Tigers.”
The Axiom retail and leisure development has full planning approval and a number of retail and leisure operators in place. However, with the immediate impact of the Covid-19 pandemic still being felt by the retail and leisure sector, the likely start of construction had been further delayed. The move means Castleford will be able to remain at their traditional home
Steve McBurney on behalf of the owners of the Junction 32 site said: “We support Castleford Tigers’ intention to stay at an improved Wheldon Road stadium and the contribution the Council would make to this through the new Rugby League Resilience Fund.
“Over time we have developed a very close relationship with Castleford Tigers and the Council and it is now obvious that, working in partnership together, we need to look at an alternative option for the club. We want Castleford Tigers and the town to thrive.
"In order to secure its Super League status, the club have told us that they would prefer to stay at Wheldon Road and improve their existing stadium. We will continue to play our part and support the Tigers to make this happen.
“There is unprecedented demand for employment and commercial space. Bringing the Junction 32 site forward quickly would deliver much needed local job opportunities and socio-economic benefits following the pandemic.
"An employment development at the Junction 32 site would take advantage of the existing planning approval and we are looking forward to working closely with Wakefield Council to achieve this. We are confident that this would be a swift and positive outcome for all.”