Wakefield set for switch to £19m stadium

WAKEFIELD WILDCATS have been thrown a Super League lifeline with plans for a new £19m stadium on the city's outskirts.

The Newmarket Community Stadium would help guarantee the club's Super League status and also provide sports, education, health and leisure facilities for the local community.

Wildcats were one of five clubs warned earlier this year by the Rugby Football League over the standard of facilities at their Belle Vue home, meaning they could lose out to a Championship club when the next set of Super League licences are awarded in 2011.

But the new 12,000-capacity stadium on the site of a disused colliery at Newmarket near junction 30 off the M62 would help avert that threat.

A planning application for the new stadium – part of a much larger 100-acre commercial development – will be submitted to Wakefield Council this week, with a final decision expected in the spring.

Wildcats hope to be playing at their new headquarters by 2012.

Club chairman Ted Richardson told the Yorkshire Post: "I'm very confident this project will happen. All the ingredients are there to deliver the stadium and it promises to be an outstanding boost for the local community.

"The impact of not having new facilities would be devastating in terms of our Super League aspirations and, although it's probably the worst economic climate for trying to generate funds and produce stadia, everything is on track.

"The stadium will have the flexibility to increase to a 15,000-capacity at a later date, giving us the potential to hold semi-finals and other high-profile events.

"While we'll be saddened to be leaving Belle Vue, which has been our ancestral home for over 100 years, the new stadium will offer state-of-the-art facilities for our supporters.

"The club has a pressing need to renew and upgrade the facilities we offer and, although Belle Vue has served us well and holds some tremendous memories, rugby league is moving on as a sport and so must we."

Wakefield hope any surplus cash from the sale of Belle Vue will go towards the stadium's cost, but funding is reliant on the success of the wider 100-acre commercial development which includes a 150-bed hotel, offices and other sports facilities.

"It's a complex jigsaw," said ex-club director Sir Rodney Walker, a former president of the RFL who is chairman of the Wakefield and District Community Trust set up to deliver the stadium.

"We're talking initially about a 19m stadium on a piece of land that we're not having to pay for so the whole project will have a value when it is completed at around 25m.

"The stadium is but a small part of a 100-acre development and, if that development is successful, I can say with absolute certainty that the stadium is fully funded.

"As we sit here today I'm confident that the whole vision for the site will materialise."

Sir Rodney added that Super League rivals Castleford Tigers, who have permission to build a new stadium two junctions further along the M62, rejected the chance to ground-share but said he hoped to persuade Championship club Featherstone Rovers to use the new facility.

"Several approaches have been made to Castleford about playing at the new community stadium but, at the moment, they say they are determined to proceed with their own new stadium," added Sir Rodney.

"We're in discussions with Featherstone and we would be delighted if they choose to play some of their bigger fixtures at the new stadium."

Wakefield's plans for a new stadium on parkland near the city centre fell through 12 months ago.

Of the other clubs warned about their facilities, St Helens, Salford and Castleford are pushing ahead with new stadium plans, while Crusaders' move to Wrexham has lifted the threat hanging over them.

Sir Rodney made clear: "The primary motivation of the new Wakefield stadium is Wakefield's desire to stay in Super League and having a stadium that is compliant with the needs of modern-day spectators. We need to demonstrate to the Rugby Football League that we will have a new state-of-the-art stadium to play at when the time comes for the new franchises to be awarded."

Commenting on the wider community benefits, he added: "I also know at first hand how sports can play an important part in helping with the development of young people, contribute to crime reduction and encourage a healthy lifestyle.

"This could be the last opportunity for some time to create the facilities the district badly needs and the public merit."