LETTERS - Open letter from Castleford Tigers’ chief Richard Wright

Richard Wright from Castleford Tigers at the site of the proposed new stadium.
Richard Wright from Castleford Tigers at the site of the proposed new stadium.
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These are exciting times to be part of Castleford Tigers. In addition to making a great start to the new season, we’re also finalising our 2012 Super League licence application, which will secure the club’s future at the top of our sport for the next three years and beyond.

Applying for a Super League licence is a complicated business. The RFL assesses each club on its engagement with the community, governance and management, match attendances, the development and performance of its players and, of course, its playing facilities. It also looks carefully at each club’s financial performance, and its ability to compete at the highest level without fear of administration.

Fortunately for Castleford Tigers and unlike most other clubs, we own the land at our current facility, the Probiz Coliseum. This is the club’s largest single financial asset. It provides us with a sound foundation on which to operate and its sale will help to fund the new stadium development.

Our plans for a new stadium at Glass Houghton are central to the future of the club. Fans have already shown huge support for the venture and we expect to take another significant step forward on the April 7, when Wakefield Council announces the results of our detailed planning application.

Nevertheless in terms of our 2012 licence application, our current home meets almost all of the ‘playing facilities’ requirements. The RFL will assess the Probiz Coliseum alongside our business plan for Glass Houghton, which clearly demonstrates our commitment to move to a new facility within the next licensing period. I am confident that these elements, combined with our strengths across the host of other criteria, will be sufficient for Castleford Tigers to qualify for the next Super League licence.

We had hoped to complete the stadium build in time for the 2012 season to commence, but given the unprecedented economic conditions, this has now had to be delayed by a season. I know that this news will disappoint many of our fans who are excited by the prospect of a new facility, but it is my job to make level headed decisions for the long term future of the club.

In these testing times, land values are at an all time low and it makes no sense to rush through the sale of our biggest asset at a vastly reduced price, when the money released will still only enable us to develop the stadium on a phased basis. We have to hold back in order to get the best deal and to be assured of delivering a stadium that meets our long term goals.

For some time now we have been working closely with our development, project and cost management consultants Consult Group to identify and secure a development partner with the expertise and funds required to make our detailed plans a reality.

To that end, we are delighted to announce that we have entered into an exclusive development agreement with Opus Land (North) Ltd and they are now working with us to obtain approval to redevelop our ground as a large format food store. We are currently in detailed discussions with both Wakefield Council and the major food retailers to agree proposals that will both trigger the regeneration of Wheldon Road and help promote the town centre of Castleford.

Opus Land and their financial partner Palmer Capital have the ability to provide all the forward funding required to support the construction of the new stadium build in a single phase in time for the 2013 season, whereas, the previously proposed sale to Ben Bailey Homes relied on additional council funding that clearly cannot be delivered in the current climate. This is therefore a much better deal for Castleford Tigers and the public of Castleford and is an arrangement that has well suited the likes of Warrington Wolves and St Helens, where similar deals have led to the development of first class modern stadia.

As an integral part of the local community, Castleford Tigers are excited to be the catalyst for this private sector inward investment into Castleford. This will be in the region of £50m and will result in not only a community stadium at Glass Houghton but it will also generate employment and trigger other new associated developments.

We will be working closely with the council and other stakeholders, such as the town centre management committee, to rightly ensure that the benefit of approving our proposals for the redevelopment of the Probiz Coliseum will be felt by the Castleford community as a whole. This will mean that as well as delivering a new stadium that will help the club cement its Super League status and reach out further in the support it gives to junior development, we will also be focused on enhancing the links from both proposed developments into the heart of the town centre.

Playing facilities aside, Castleford Tigers has an enviable reputation for youth development, which is growing week by week. In community engagement we are the envy of many rival clubs. We truly sit at the heart of the Castleford local community. Last year alone a staggering 13,000 children participated in our community programme. We are fortunate to have the support of our loyal fans and we are proud of them and the contribution we make together to Castleford and to the wider sport.

We will continue to build on our strong heritage and I urge all Tigers fans to get down to the Probiz Coliseum and show their support to the club, as match attendances are important in terms of our licence application. Together, we will ensure Castleford Tigers remains a dominant force in Super League for many years to come.