£40m backer for stadium revamp is revealed, keeping concerns at bay

The recent announcement for Headingley stadium redevelopment means it will entirely privately funded.

Headingley Stadium, which is home to Leeds Rhinos and Yorkshire Cricket, will be undergoing a £40m renovation which sparked anger from locals earlier this year regarding the tax payers money. According to the Yorkshire Evening Post, Councillor Stewart Golton, leader of the Lib Dem group, said: “I appreciate cricket brings a pleasure to a lot of people. But £40m is a lot of money.”

However, it has recently been announced that London based insurance giant, Legal and General will be footing the £40m bill.

Photograph of the south stand being pulled down by diggers

Reconstruction at the stadium has began with the South stand being pulled down by diggers

After the initial concern from locals, the news has confirmed that the development wont be publicly funded. Repayments are set to be made to insurance and investment management group, Legal and General, by Leeds Rhinos and Yorkshire Cricket Club through rent.

Leeds City Council faced backlash from many after the controversial large sum of money had been revealed, Cllr Neil Walshaw represents the Headingley ward, and assures that the money for the development is not publicly funded.

“It needs to be made clear that the figure of £40m funding is not public money. We see the development as necessary – the cricket pitch needs to be redeveloped to retain test status and the rugby side was frankly falling apart. In the past the council has loaned the clubs money for renovation but when the figures were put to us on this occasion, the council objected the suggested £4m that was asked.”

Lack of funding earlier this year meant there were doubts for the clubs’ future and fears that Yorkshire Cricket may lose its popular international status.

Cllr Walshaw said “Cllr Judith Blake has managed to break a deal with a financial services company to provide the finance for the development. Although it is not public money, the Council still has a role in handling some of that money and has a say in how it is spent.”

Despite the backlash, improvements to the stadium will have long-term benefits to not only fans at matches, but also local residents who live within close proximity of the grounds. Improvements include a modern digital sound system that monitors where sound goes and therefore controls noise in the surrounding area. Cllr Neil Walshaw says the sound system was a previous problem and was the main cause for complaints from residents.

“As well as the sounding, the lighting has also caused complaints. The new lighting will be more like the lighting used on the cricket side. It will be more refined LED lighting that will be more controlled and means much less light loss.”

Julie Davies, 34, lives next to the stadium; “on match days, the sound travels from the ground to our house which can get quite loud. The light from the flood lights can create glare in the distance. It is not ideal, but then again causes no harm or bother to me or my children, and matches finish at reasonable times.

“If these improvements mean that noise will be controlled then I think the large amount of spending is justified, it’s only fair on the locals who live in the area.”

Photograph of the seating area at Headingley Stadium

The development will reduce seating capacity whilst work is underway

The renovation will consist of a brand new stand that will be accessible from both rugby and cricket sides. The south stand is currently being pulled down, reducing the capacity for any upcoming matches. The popular annual rugby event, Varsity, sees local universities Leeds Beckett and University of Leeds going to head to head at rugby. It took place earlier this month and many students were disappointed with the reduced amount of tickets available.

Tom Medcalf, 21, was unable to get a ticket for the event due to the reconstruction. “I saw posts online about the limited amount of tickets due to the work taking place but didn’t realise it was a whole stand and I did not expect to not get a ticket. It was annoying because all my friends managed to get tickets and last year there was no shortage of tickets.”

Business man, Ali Mozayan, owns a restaurant in Headingley and is intrigued to see if the stadium development brings more business to Headingley.

“Matches and events at Headingley stadium can be the busiest times of the year for me. I am grateful for such a good location, especially in the summer when the cricket is on.

“I do think that if the stadium is better quality and has more capacity it will encourage more people to attend matches. This would bring more people into Headingley to socialise afterwards which would definitely have a positive impact on my business.”

Headingley Stadium: A Guide

Opening in 1890, Headingley Stadium is situated in the heart of Headingley and is home to both Leeds Rhinos Rugby and Yorkshire County Cricket Club. The Rugby stadium has a capacity go 21,062 and the Cricket 17,500.

Photograph of honored cricket gate

Headingley stadium opened in 1890 and is a major attraction in Leeds

From 2006, the stadium was known as Headingley Carnegie Staduim. Leeds Beckett University are sponsors of the ground and have used the facilities as part of their sport exercise courses, providing 12 classrooms overlooking the ground.

The stadium has been home to some great sporting events. Geoff Boycott, in 1977, scored a hundredth hundred against Australia something that has only been achieved by 25 in the history of Cricket.

The development is set to be completed around March 2018.

By Catherine Skelton and Charlotte Jatana

About the Author

This article was produced by a student or students on the BA in Journalism at Leeds Beckett University.

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