THE chairman of a rugby club has spoken of "exciting times" ahead following a deal which paves the way for it to take over Darlington FC's former 25,000 seater stadium.
Mowden Park Rugby Club first announced its plans to take over the £15m Northern Echo Arena in September, but the deal hinged on it being able to buy 17 acres of adjoining land from Darlington Borough Council.
The council’s cabinet agreed to the land sale - understood to be worth £350,000 - to allow the rugby club to create training pitches.
In a separate deal, Mowden is in the process of buying the Northern Echo Arena from businessmen Philip Scott and Graham Sizer and work on bringing the dormant stadium back to life is expected to begin soon.
John Widdall, chairman of Mowden Park Rugby Club said: “We will start work on getting the stadium up to use straight away.
“The stadium deal has been agreed, we are buying the stadium, buying the land and hopefully they (the contracts) are being signed on the same day.
“These are very exciting times, a lot of people are raring to go and get started.
“It has come at an exciting time for the rugby club, we are doing well in the league; it is a happy ship at Mowden at the moment.”
Mr Widdall said that the rugby club is also in talks with outside parties to ensure the financial viability of using the stadium and has been given the option by Darlington council to buy a further 25 acres of land as the club develops.
“As far as the first team goes, we are not dependent on crowds, we can make the arena and ground pay for itself, we have various business and commercial deals to make sure that it pays for itself,” said Mr Widdall.
Darlington Council leader Bill Dixon said the land was always intended for sports use and says its sale “represents the best future” for the stadium.
“It is excellent news, it is the best result we could have possibly got,” he said.
“If it had not have been this, the future of the stadium would have remained in doubt; this removes the doubt.”
Developer Bellway Homes plans to build 67 houses on Mowden Park Rugby Club's current ground, at Yiewsley Drive.