Castleford Tigers set to remain at the Jungle: Redevelopment proposed for Wheldon Road stadium as prospects of move to new ground fade
Castleford Tigers say it is in their “best interests” to stay at Wheldon Road rather than move to a new, purpose-built stadium.
A long-running saga took a fresh twist yesterday when the club revealed they are in talks with Wakefield Council and the owners of the proposed stadium site at Junction 32 on the M62, near Glasshoughton, about the possibility of remaining at the Jungle.
Last Friday Wakefield Council announced its intention to give up to £2m to Tigers, as part of a new Rugby League Resilience Fund,, to invest in their current stadium and improve community use.
That would coincide with the Axiom scheme at Junction 32 being refocused away from retail and leisure uses, with a high-quality employment and commercial development being proposed in its place.
Tigers say they would use the investment to help towards funding a major redevelopment of Wheldon Road, bringing the club’s home up to modern standards.
Subject to securing the investment necessary, key elements of the club’s proposals would be to demolish and rebuild the main stand and modernise the existing Princess Street Stand, Railway End and Wheldon Road End.
Tigers say a “rich mix of new facilities, including food and drink outlets and hospitality suites would enhance the matchday experience for fans, while new conference facilities and meeting rooms would boost non-matchday income and enable the club to further enhance its work within the community”.
Tigers’ managing director Mark Grattan said: “We welcome the council’s announcement on making a contribution towards our plans to improve our home stadium on Wheldon Road.
“There is already an urgent need to invest significant sums to keep Wheldon Road functioning as a Super League ground.
“Being realistic about the timeframes to deliver the retail and leisure development with the new stadium following the Covid-19 pandemic, from the club’s perspective we believe the time is right to explore the option of staying at our historic home.
“We believe that, although major new investment is needed to improve the existing stadium, this would now be in the best long-term interests of Castleford Tigers. ”
The Axiom retail and leisure development has full planning approval and a number of retail and leisure operators in place.
But, with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic still being felt by the retail and leisure sector, the likely start of construction has been delayed.
It is estimated an employment development on the Junction 32 site would create around 1,800 on-site jobs and almost 600 elsewhere to support it, plus more than 650 roles during construction.
Steve McBurney, spokesman for the owners of the Junction 32 site, said: “We support Castleford Tigers’ intention to stay at an improved Wheldon Road stadium and the contribution the council would make to this through the new Rugby League Resilience Fund.
“Over time we have developed a very close relationship with Castleford Tigers and the council and it is now obvious that, working in partnership together, we need to look at an alternative option for the club.”
McBurney insisted: “We want Castleford Tigers and the town to thrive.
“In order to secure its Super League status, the club have told us they would prefer to stay at Wheldon Road and improve their existing stadium.
“We will continue to play our part and support the Tigers to make this happen.”
McBurney said switching the Junction 32 site from leisure and retail use to employment and commercial space would “deliver much needed local job opportunities and socio-economic benefits following the pandemic”.
He insisted: “An employment development at the Junction 32 site would take advantage of the existing planning approval and we are looking forward to working closely with Wakefield Council to achieve this.
“We are confident this would be a swift and positive outcome for all.”
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