Council vows to progress plans for Community Stadium

02/11/2017, PR8684

rugby ball

Wakefield Council has today (Thursday 2 November) vowed to continue progressing the plans for a new community stadium in the district – despite the owners of Wakefield Trinity halting talks last week after refusing to pay a reasonable rent.

The partnership of Wakefield Council, 88m Group and Yorkcourt Properties have now pledged to carry on developing the proposal to provide a top-class sporting, concert and conferencing facility for the community.

Cllr Denise Jeffery
Cllr Denise Jeffery

The Deputy Leader of Wakefield Council, Cllr Denise Jeffery said: “We all have a great opportunity to deliver a first-class sporting and entertainment stadium for all our residents. A new community facility could give a real boost to so many sports clubs and groups, not just in the city but also in the wider area, including hockey, netball, football and rugby across a range of age groups and covering both men and women’s games.

“It would be absolutely fantastic to have our much-loved rugby league club as tenants, and one of the key drivers of the proposal we have worked hard to put together was to keep Wakefield Trinity in this city. But, it simply cannot work unless there is a fair, deliverable and sustainable business plan and deal in place.

“We are very saddened that the club owners are choosing not to have the new stadium as their home. However, based on the value the facility could add to our sporting community we feel it is our duty to progress the plans and are keen to hear from any sports clubs who would be interested in using the new stadium so that we can try and incorporate their needs when developing the designs.”

Last month, Wakefield Council agreed to look at lease/funding options to enable the owner of the land to deliver the development as quickly as possible. This would have ensured that Wakefield Trinity could play the 2018 Super League season in the new ground, as tenants. As part of this proposal, which the owners of Wakefield Trinity agreed to in principle on 20 September, the club would pay a normal rent, as one of the stadium’s tenants. The facility would be run and managed by an independent charitable Trust.

The club were offered all income on match days, including all ticket sales, all banquet, restaurant and bars and hospitality boxes. The club would have priority use of the stadium for match days and full access to the ticket office, bars, restaurants and changing facilities along with day-to-day access to the fitness centre and physiotherapy suite.

However, last week the owners submitted their own ‘heads of terms’ for the deal which insisted they retain sole control over the community stadium’s income and operations, whilst still offering nothing towards the capital costs of the development and refusing to pay a normal commercial rent.

88m Group and the Council were forced to decline these as unworkable and could have put the legal status of any Trust at risk. Wakefield Trinity’s owners then walked away from the talks, stating they were ‘proceeding with alternative arrangements’.

Today’s announcement from Wakefield Council comes as the owner of the Belle Vue ground, 88m Group, is asking Wakefield Trinity to clarify their future playing arrangements. In February 2017, the Chairman of Wakefield Trinity, Michael Carter, gave notice to quit the Belle Vue site in December 2017. To date, this notice has not been rescinded nor has any contact been made by the club to negotiate a different position with the landowner – despite his numerous verbal offers for the club to remain at Belle Vue.

Commenting on this, Manni Hussain, Chairman of 88m Group confirmed that he had written to the club.

Mr Hussain said: “I have asked the club to clarify their intentions as I am aware that they are selling tickets to fans for games at Belle Vue beyond the date the club have indicated they wish to leave the ground. My greatest concern is for the fans, as the club have put no agreement in place and fans are paying out their hard earned money for games that we cannot facilitate at Belle Vue - unless the club make these necessary arrangements.”

Cllr Jeffery added: “I urge the club owners to put the fans first and sort out their playing arrangements as soon as possible, as well as reconsidering their unworkable demands for the new community stadium. I doubt any new landlord will offer them a deal with complete control over all income streams and a rent that doesn’t cover any costs.”

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