Leeds Rhinos have confirmed that development plans for the South Stand at Headingley Carnegie Stadium have been delayed and that it will now be open for the entire 2017 Betfred Super League season.
The redevelopment of the stadium, including the South Stand and the shared Main Stand with Yorkshire CCC, was due to begin with demolition work on the terrace in January 2017, but those plans have had to be put back due to the time taken in achieving the appropriate planning permissions necessary for both the development itself and the supporting funding developments necessary to undertake this project.
The boards of both clubs are committed to continue to work together with the support of Leeds City Council to deliver the 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 24th February 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.
Leeds Rhinos were the best supported team in the Betfred Super League last season with an average crowd of 15,476. Capacity for the stadium was due to be restricted to 13,500 in 2017 but will now remain at just over 20,000. The plans for the South Stand, which was built in 1931, will see the existing terrace replaced with a new combined seated and standing area.
Commenting on the announcement Chief Executive Gary Hetherington commented, “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,” added Hetherington.