No training ground at Matthew Murray site for Leeds United as they eye 55,000 Elland Road and propose sports hub switch
Leeds United no longer plan to build a training ground at the former Matthew Murray High School site because expanding Elland Road to a 55,000 capacity is a more immediate priority.
The club's revised stadium ambition is one of the reasons behind a proposed switch for the Parklife community facility, from Fullerton Park to the Matthew Murray site in Holbeck, where Leeds had planned to build a £25m state-of-the-art training facility.
CEO Angus Kinnear had previously said that moving the training ground closer to the stadium and into the city would help with talent identification and development but the new proposal, to be considered next week by the Leeds Council's executive board, is confirmation that the Whites will no longer be purchasing the Brown Lane East plot and their training base will remain, for now, at Thorp Arch.
They do, however, plan to acquire land at Fullerton Park to expand their stadium, developing at least two stands in a staggered approach.
Leeds had earmarked Elland Road for a capacity increase to 50,000 but promotion and the increased investment from the San Fransisco 49ers has prompted a change in plans and hope for a further 5,000 seats, which in turn required the relocation of Parklife.
A report from the director of city development to the council's executive board suggests that keeping the initiative at Fullerton Park would 'negatively impact Leeds United and their ambition for a 55,000 seater stadium and potentially also impact the existing Park and Ride, which would have lost up to 90 spaces as part of the Parklife development.'
As for Parklife - a national programme funded by the Football Association, the Premier League, Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Sport England and the Football Foundation, which aims to provide all-weather facilities - the council and the club both agree, after consultation with local stakeholders, that the switch would deliver a better result for the sports hub.
Both the Football Foundation, who provide 60 per cent of the funding for the scheme, and the NHS, have given their support to the new proposals. Leeds will retain a financial interest in the initiative, which will be operated by the Leeds United Foundation and will carry club branding.
Coun James Lewis, leader of the council, says they are happy to explore the Matthew Murray site as an alternative option for Parklife in order to back the club's ambitions for Elland Road.
“The fantastic return of Leeds United to the Premier League has proved to be a great boost to not just fans, but also the city as a whole," he said.
"We remain committed to working with the club constructively in terms of any ambitions they might have in terms of increasing the capacity of Elland Road in the future, which is why following discussions, we agreed to look at what options could be available to move the proposed Parklife project from Fullerton Park to another location."
He is confident that the move to the Matthew Murray site will have no negative impact on what Parklife will offer the local area.
“The Parklife community sporting hub remains a key part of our aim to ensure that a range of top class facilities are available in south Leeds, and we were committed to ensure that as part of any assessment work in terms of finding a new location for the project, that no facilities would be lost to those proposed for Fullerton Park," said Coun Lewis.
"I am pleased to say that this is the case, and we are confident that the Matthew Murray site will be an ideal location for Parklife, a view which is shared by local stakeholders, the Football Foundation, Leeds United and our partners at the NHS.
“If approved by the executive board, we will seek to move forward with a redesign of the plans for Parklife, before bringing them back to the executive board. Local people can be assured that any plans will be subject to a full public consultation process.”
Under the new proposals facilities provided by Parklife would now include; four 3G artificial grass pitches; community café; changing rooms; a gym and an increased NHS presence, in a facility which will include treatment rooms and pharmacy.
Leeds United have agreed to cover the estimated £325k cost of the design fees incurred by the suggested move.
The council have confirmed that Leeds' plans for their training ground and academy at the Matthew Murray site will no longer go ahead.
A statement said: "The council continues to be committed to engaging with the club for any options they may consider for a new training ground in the near future.
"The council will also if approved, agree to work in partnership with Leeds United Football Club on a revised masterplan for the Elland Road Stadium and Fullerton Park area with view that further draft proposals are brought back to the executive board before a public consultation at a later date."