Nestled among the symmetrical rows of Headingley’s Victorian rooftops there sits something of which there is only one in the world quite like it.
Only in Leeds will you find an international cricket pitch and an international level rugby stadium sharing the same home.
And, Emerald Headingley Stadium now has £45m worth of new facilities which are being unveiled to the sport loving public. Emma Ryan had a sneak preview.
Stepping into the new executive lounges and suites at Emerald Headingley Stadium the last thing you would think is that you were caught in the middle of Leeds Rhinos and Yorkshire Cricket Club’s shared facilities.
In fact, the plush velvet chairs, leather booths, curved bars, textured wallpaper, low lights, mirrors and linear designs would make you feasibly think you were strolling around an art deco inspired cruise ship.
However, what you do have is capacity to feed 1,400 guests for dinner at the same time across various executive lounges, including the Emerald Suite that can cater for 450 people and over looks both the cricket and rugby pitch, private boardrooms, bars, lounges, 12 private boxes and a roof terrace.
All of this has been created while both Leeds Rhinos and Yorkshire Cricket Club continued to play and carry out corporate commitments at the same time as workmen were on site.
It is now the jewel in a £45m re-development at the stadium which adds to the 36 bedroom on site hotel, public cafe and corporate spaces - which away from sporting events is attracting business and events use such as wedding receptions and funerals.
Gary Hetherington, chief executive of Leeds Rhinos, says the completion of the stand facilities has been three years in the making, in a joint venture between the Rugby League outfit, Yorkshire Cricket Club and Leeds City Council.
He said: “This is the culmination of two years of construction and it has been nearly three years since the concept was agreed.
“This is totally unique in the world of sport where two international sporting arenas are joined by one central stand. Leeds Rhinos own much of the site and Yorkshire Cricket Club own part of the site and this has been a coming together where we jointly own the stand.”
As well as providing “world-class” facilities for match day visitors and corporate guests, the re-development of Emerald Headingley shows the commitment of the two organisations, and the city, in the desire to continue to host international sport on our door-step.
Mr Hetherington said: “The work needed doing after 130 years, the facilities had got tired but there was a necessity to retain international cricket. Without this development, Emerald Headingley would not have attracted international cricket and test matches in the way that it has.
“There are more test grounds than matches so there is competition to host the games and we have to have the most modern facilities and that has been a challenge for the city. Through cricket, we get visitors from Asia, the Caribbean, South Africa and Australasia. Emerald Headingley has a reputation all around the world and the value to the city of that is significant.”
Away from the sporting field, which takes up 100 days out of the calendar, the organisations operating from Emerald Headingley are looking to make it a 365 days a year business.
In addition to the hotel, there is a cafe and the new stand has led to more jobs given that catering, corporate and banqueting facilities have increased so much.
It is envisaged that funeral parties and wedding receptions will be catered for and last week more than 250 people attended a cricket lunch.
Keith Moss, the former Yorkshire CCC chairman founded the 364 Club many years ago in recognition of Sir Leonard Hutton who hit a world record Test score of 364 against Australia at The Oval in 1938. The club hosts an annual lunch in recognition of the achievement and this year’s provided the chance for many to get a first glimpse of the new lounges.
One such guest in the exclusive boardroom was retired umpire Dickie Bird OBE who said the whole set up had changed beyond recognition compared to the days when he was playing and officiating.
However, there will be two official celebratory events to unveil the new stand and facilities this year with the first set for July 17.
It is being organised by the Leeds City Council community team and the respective foundations of Leeds Rhinos and Yorkshire Cricket Club. It is a free event where the people of Leeds can come and take part in activities throughout the day on both the cricket and rugby pitches as well as having a look around the new facilities.
There will be an official opening on that date of The Emerald Stand which is set to be carried out by the Leader of Leeds City Councill Cllr Judith Blake, Dr Keith Howard, founder of Emerald Publishing, the new Sponsor of the Stadium; Paul Caddick, chairman of Leeds Rhinos and contractors Caddick Construction and Geoff Cope, President of Yorkshire County Cricket Club.
On Saturday September 21 a ticket only “Proms on the Pitch” event will take place on the Rhino’s ground for an evening of music and entertainment and opera singer Lesley Garrett has been confirmed as the headline act.
Mr Hetherington added: “Years ago when we were looking forward to the completion of the facility we knew we needed to have an event of special significance that could be enjoyed and remembered for years to come, such is the significance of the completion of this huge development. It needs to be celebrated.”
The Leeds Cricket, Football and Athletic Company Ltd and purchased Lot 17a on the Cardigan estate for £20,000 in 1889. The site had already been used for cricket and rugby and the area became organised for the use of six sports – bowls, cycling and tennis in addition to cricket, football and athletics.
The cricket ground was officially opened on May 27, 1890 when Leeds CC played Scarborough CC and the first rugby match took place in September of the same year.
Use of the ground became so successful that Yorkshire CCC’s committee decided in 1903 to move their headquarters from Sheffield to Leeds.
Key project partners involved in the development included DLA Design, Caddick Developments Ltd, Leeds Rhinos, Yorkshire County Cricket Club and Yorkshire Carnegie