HEADINGLEY CARNEGIE Stadium’s famous South Stand has had a temporary reprieve.
Leeds Rhinos’ final game of the season, against Leigh Centurions this month, was expected to be the last time the terrace was used.
The club had hoped work could begin immediately on demolishing the stand, which they want to replace with a new double-decker structure including seats and a standing area.
But the planning process has taken longer than expected and the South Stand will now remain open for Rhinos’ traditional Boxing Day challenge match against Wakefield Trinity.
Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington said: “The result of the planning process for the redevelopment of the stadium is drawing closer and the home games against Leigh Centurions on September 22 and the traditional Boxing Day fixture are to be the last games in the South Stand as we know it.
“The process is taking longer than anticipated. We had hoped to start the demolition at the end of this month, but that’s out of the question.
“We have to be patient and the end result will hopefully deliver something very special for the stadium and the city.”
The delay means the Boxing Day game will go ahead as usual. Rhinos had been considering cancelling the fixture this year due to the difficulty of accommodating a five-figure crowd on what was due to be a building site.
Memberships for 2017 are now available and Hetherington said they are “selling fast”. Existing members have priority to renew until November 5. The stadium capacity will be reduced to around 13,000 when the South Stand is demolished.
Meanwhile, the game against Leigh has been brought forward 24 hours – from Friday, September 23 – at the request of Sky TV.
The change, announced with just nine days’ notice, means Rhinos will have only three full days to prepare following Sunday’s trip to Huddersfield Giants.
Hetherington said: “I can’t remember the last time we had to change a fixture.
“We certainly haven’t had to change one this season and I don’t think we did last season.
“Clearly it makes it very challenging for the players, to be backing up after four days and I recognise it may be a real inconvenience for some fans and sponsors.
“We have every sympathy with them, but we recognise that at this stage of the season this [fixture changes] is part and parcel of what we, the clubs, have to deliver.”
The game was not chosen for television coverage on the original date as that clashes with the final round of matches in the Super-8s, when Sky will broadcast Hull’s Challenge Cup final rematch with Warrington Wolves.
Saturday is the usual day for televised games in the Qualifiers, but Sky are likely to select Hull KR’s crucial relegation battle with Huddersfield Giants for coverage on September 24.
l Celebrities from film, television and sport will help Rhinos forward Stevie Ward launch his online magazine Mantality at Banyan in Leeds tonight.
Ward said: “I’m teaming up with the State of Mind charity to create a Mantality cocktail. Banyan will be donating proceeds to State of Mind. Jamie Jones-Buchanan is going to host the launch and it is an opportunity to meet with businesses in Leeds and discuss a way of going forward.
“For me, it’s a big night just to look back on this year and know that something positive came out of such a long absence from playing rugby league.
“With the magazine we want to offer a trusted and aspirational platform for the millennial mind and this is a big step in making that statement.”