We have, since the early 2000's tried to work every avenue to return motorsport to Odsal stadium since it re opened for RFL with the Bulls in the Super League - to date on four different occasions, the most recent a few years ago alongside former speedway promoter, Tony Mole where we came closest in agreeing in principle with then Bulls franchise holders, O.K Bulls to utilise the stadium. At that point we gained the necessary permissions from Bradford council for this project to actually happen! Sadly that opportunity evaporated as then OK Bulls 'failed' and, since then it has been a tragic litany of events including the sacriligous removal of the main infrastructure - ie plate fence which was a 'scandal'
The latter incumbants were also contacted however had no interest at that time and themselves failed around 18 months ago which, in essence saw the club saved and move to Dewsbury to survive. That meant the whole future of Odsal became hugely uncertain. However, to the credit of leaseholders RFL, dating back to later last year, they began looking at improving the viability of the stadium to which this current journey commenced. I have nothing but praise for the professionalism and promptness and courtesy extended by the RFL to listen to and disseminate our developing plans to try and move this forward. Huge credit must also go to Mark Sawyer and his team in 'rescuing' the Bulls and kept it 'breathing' without which there would be no future and one should not take lightly the commitment that involved.
We have been working on the Odsal project now since the start of 2020, colliding with the greatest challenge the globe has encountered with the Pandemic.
Since February 2020, almost monthly discussions have continued to progress with detailed business plans and a thorough investment costing to enable getting the project to where it currently sits.
Discussions have more recently intensified currently towards concluding discussions and resolving a secure license agreement to progress in 2021. Once hopefully satisfactorily resolved, discussions will then commence with Bradford City Council over confirming planning aspects and permissions together with the Safety Action Group towards procuring it's safety certificate. This will be the final part of the process and we are careful not to prejudge that outcome, but may only be understood once all parties reach an agreement.
The plan remains to provide a facility for both Stock Car Racing and Speedway however costings have been undertaken for both a tarmac surface as well as shale. The latter being essential for the inclusion of speedway albeit significant cost advantages of tarmac for stock car racing exist. The final decision on surface will be made once agreement has been concluded.
Startrax are very keen to see Speedway included at Odsal however acknowledges that the current economic position for speedway and indeed the country is a major factor. However, promoter Steve Rees says 'we remain receptive to proposals for speedway in 2021 and beyond, as we have now much more visibility on the future and costings, we are happy to engage with potential operators; Rees added 'After 23 years absence of motorsport at Odsal we believe there will be the huge interest and support it should command and deserves, that is certainly evident from the stock car family - we are now in a position to see the end game and therefore open discussions with regards speedway with some more certainty'
As far as 2021 is concerned, subject to concluding commercial agreements with the RFL and thereafter in coming weeks, subject to the necessary permissions being obtained from Bradford Council, the latter being the final hurdle, it remains our intent to commence a 16 week installation plan with accredited contractors early in the New Year with a target opening of April. Rees said ' The investment is significant particularly in the current economic uncertainties however, after 23 years, this may well be the final and only opportunity to return to Odsal and both sports must in my opinion embrace it' adding 'Odsal is unique, it is primarily an iconic Rugby League stadium which needs a future securing for it and the city to see it's club return. We have met Mark Sawyer earlier in the year from Bradford Bulls and we had a refreshing and constructive discussion with regards the future and look forward at some point to pooling resources to stabilise the future of Odsal commercially.
This has been a long and intense journey and we approach a finishing line which either way will be a defining moment for Motorsport and whether we can get this over the line. Whilst discussions move into 'final laps' I must thank Mr Sutton from the RFL and Mark Sawyer for courtesies extended to allow us to present and elaborate detailed plans for Odsal and whatever the final conclusion evolves, all sides have worked towards a positive outcome. The removal of infrastructure referred to earlier has made this a much bigger cost and risk complicating matters - and, in the current economic environment, the investment required now to make this happen of around £200,000 [ and that excludes operational costs ongoing ] even more challenging and much higher elevated risk. As a sport we must come together. We are approaching a penultimate platform of optimistically agreeing commercial terms which then permits us to move forward to the final due diligence and involving Bradford City Council to confirm validity and requirements for motorsport returning to Odsal which, once we reach agreement with the RFL, will then quite promptly follow and will confirm the future of Odsal. This has been a 'long, weary, costly and time consuming process which has been driven by tenacity and the 'dream' of the Wembley of the North rebooting. Whatever the final outcome, years of speculation now have at last some foundations for optimism and will hopefully and shortly move forward to the final objective. For two decades the resurrection of Odsal by some [ and justifiable sentiment ] has been viewed with cynicism as to it actually happening. We are now the closest ever in 23 years. We must together come together to embrace that challenge - if and when required.
A Northern renaissance is now visible with, potentially in the next 12 months two quality venues at Owlerton Stadium Sheffield complimented by hopefully, the North 're-booted' with the addition of the long regarded 'Wembley of the North' - That really is something to shout about - within 30 miles of each other!
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