RUGBY AND cricket fans face the prospect of watching their sport in a building site next year.
Rugby league, union and cricket are all set to continue at Emerald Headingley as a massive £40m redevelopment takes place around them.
Union side Yorkshire Carnegie, who host Bristol this week, are playing through the work and Leeds Rhinos plan to stage all but two of next season’s home games on their usual turf.
Domestic and international cricket will also take place during the redevelopment, which began last August, but Steve Pitts – project manager for builders Caddick Construction – stressed months of planning have gone into minimising disruption for fans and workers.
Demolition of the joint rugby and cricket main stand will continue for the next month, but steelworks on Rhinos’ South Stand began two days ago.
A temporary main stand is due to be installed and Rhinos hope to have standing areas of the South Stand open in time for their first game at Headingley, against Catalans Dragons on Friday, March 2.
Rhinos will play all their pre-season games away from home, including the traditional Boxing Day clash with Wakefield Trinity.
They are on the road in Betfred Super League rounds one and three; their second game of the season, against Hull KR, will be staged at Elland Road, as will the round seven derby against Castleford Tigers on March 23, and they will travel to Melbourne for February’s World Club Challenge.
“We have got Carnegie at home on Friday night,” Pitts said.
“The crowds for Carnegie are relatively small so the club will only open the Carnegie Stand (at the eastern end of the stadium).
“The fans will be coming in one entrance and only be in one area of the ground.
“It will be a different kettle of fish when Rhinos start; all four sides of the ground will be open.
“There will be some standing capacity in the South Stand, which will be a challenge logistically for us.
“We will need to keep working through, but be ready for the turnstiles to open at 5pm if it is a Friday night game.
“There’s a lot of issues to go through with the ground safety team, but we know what’s going to happen and what needs to be done.”
Pitts – who is a Castleford fan – reckons the start of the cricket season will be a bigger challenge.
“At 8pm on a Friday night, when the rugby kicks off, we aren’t here,” he pointed out. “But cricket is played through the day during the week, when we are working – and there’s an England Test and one-day match.
“There’s plenty of challenges to overcome.
“It is challenging and exciting, but we have got a plan. We have had enough meetings with the club to discuss how we need to get fans in, access for the emergency services and that sort of thing. It should all be nailed down after the next couple of months.”