HEADINGLEY STADIUM’S famous rugby South Stand has been handed another reprieve.
Leeds Rhinos today confirmed the terrace will be open throughout the 2017 Betfred Super League season after development plans were delayed.
Rhinos had originally hoped work to demolish and then rebuild the South Stand would begin at the end of the 2016 season, two months ago, but with the scheme still going through the planning process, that was put back.
At the start of this month Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington said he expected the terrace to be closed after Rhinos’ Boxing Day game against Wakefield Trinity, but that will now not happen.
The proposed new South Stand – including seats and a standing area – is the first part of a stadium redevelopment which will also include the Main Stand, shared with Yorkshire County Cricket Club.
Planning permission has not yet been granted for the work at the stadium or the sale of two areas of land for housing, which will partly fund the project.
A club statement said: “The boards of both clubs [Rhinos and Yorkshire] are committed to continue to work together with the support of Leeds City Council to deliver this scheme which, once complete, will underpin Test match cricket at Headingley and upgrade the rugby side of the stadium.
“The delays have been caused by complex planning matters relating to the early release of two sites owned by Leeds Rhinos that are currently put forward by the council for development in its site allocations process. These sites underpin the financial support to be provided to the project by both clubs, other public bodies and Leeds City Council itself.
“The Rhinos have just over 100 days until their first home game of the season on February 24 and will be working to re-allocate those supporters who wish to transfer their memberships back into the South Stand for the new season before Christmas.”
Rhinos’ average crowd this year was 15,476.
The capacity was due to be cut to 13,500 in 2017, but will now remain at just over 20,000.
Hetherington said: “We are deeply disappointed that we have been unable thus far to deliver the project on time.
“The funding package for the whole stadium development involves investment from both ourselves and Yorkshire CCC, and support from both Leeds City Council and other public bodies.
“The sale of historical land assets completes the funding of the scheme leaving the clubs in a stable long term financial position.
“Naturally a project of this magnitude has unique challenges and unfortunately we have not been able to conclude some of those to allow us to begin work on the South Stand.
“We appreciate the support from the council to date, but we recognise the distinction and integrity of the planning process.
“We apologise for the inconvenience this has caused to our members, in particular and our customer experience team will be touch with each individual member to review their options for next season.
“Season memberships are now on general sale for the South Stand. We are desperately disappointed to be making this announcement, but remain hopeful that the scheme will go ahead as planned in the near future.”