Executive to consider stadium plans

Andrew Gilbert

Jan. 10, 2019

Allerdale Borough Council’s Executive will take a number of key decisions on the new community stadium planned for Workington at its next meeting on 16 January 2019. If agreed, these will help move the project to the next stage.  

The Council was approached by Workington Town Rugby League club and Workington Reds football club, to investigate the possibility of building a new stadium for them both. Over the past few months, plans have been developed which include an assessment of suitable sites, visits to similar facilities at York, Leigh and Warrington, the purchase of nearby land at Lonsdale Park, and the appointment of consultants to develop designs and a planning application.  

These designs would see an 8,000 capacity community stadium built on the current site of Borough Park ground, with a new 3G training pitch on nearby land. Future plans also include a complete redevelopment of the riverside area to open it up for recreational use. The plans also include hospitality and conference facilities to increase revenue for the building.  

As such the scheme not only meets the council’s commitment to make sporting facilities more accessible to people, but also to improve the health and wellbeing of residents, as well as encourage investment and jobs into the area.  

Building on the success of the nearby leisure centre and the recent approval of a hotel, café and restaurant close to the site, it is estimated the stadium would directly support 400 FTE jobs and 36 jobs indirectly, with a further 345 FTE jobs in the construction phase alone. 
   
The stadium plans are also key to the council’s bid to be a host for Rugby League World Cup games in 2021 which, if successful, would give an additional boost to the economy and promote sport in the area.  

Members are therefore being asked to note the work carried out so far and to agree to proceed further with the project. This includes approving the appointment of consultants to start groundwork investigations on the chosen site and the negotiation of heads of terms with the two clubs. 

The Council’s ambition is also to build a community facility which is more than just a sports ground for the clubs. Therefore, it has been having positive discussions with the local NHS about providing medical facilities at the stadium, and for there to be an on-site pharmacy.  

Since the stadium plans were initially announced, the Council has also been approached by Sellafield about providing office space for some of their workers. Therefore, the designs have been revised to include space for around 300 office employees.  

The expanded office accommodation will increase the overall cost of the project to around £25m. However, the increase in rental income helps to make the whole project more viable. It also meets the council’s priorities to boost the economy of Workington and make it more sustainable by bringing large numbers of workers into the town. 
  
Members are being asked to give authority to officer to finalise these negotiations. 

Mark Fryer, Executive Member with responsibility for economic growth, said: “There has been a lot of work on the stadium project already which has got us to where we are today and I’d like to thank the clubs and partners for their support so far.” 

A full financial business case with operating and funding arrangements is still being devised and three potential funding models are being considered.   

Members will be presented with more detail on the possible financial arrangements at a later date and any decisions made at the Executive meeting of 16 January are subject to approval of the business case. The decisions are also subject to the granting of planning permission. 

If everything is approved as planned, then construction is due to start in November 2019 with completion in the spring of 2021. 
 
Notes 

1.    There are currently three funding options being considered. One option is to borrow any further capital funding. The second option being considered is for income streams to be sold in exchange for upfront capital investment. A third option is for an institutional investor to pay for the development and construction costs of the stadium and lease it back to a stadium company.  
2.    The council is working with Workington Reds and the Football Association on temporary arrangements whilst the new stadium is being built. This may include sharing the facility at Derwent Park with the rugby club however no decision has been made. 
3.    The council has no direct relationship with the speedway team, Workington Comets, who are a tenant of Workington Town at Derwent Park. However, initial discussions have taken place with representatives from Workington Comets to understand their future plans and aspirations and what support the council can provide. This dialogue is ongoing.