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Rugby club Arena plan could involve Quakers
MOWDEN Park Rugby Club yesterday revealed its £6m vision to transform Darlington Arena into a venue for international rugby and music concerts – as talks are planned with the Quakers about a possible groundshare.
The rugby club’s plan to take over the Quakers’ former football stadium hinges on its ability to buy an adjacent plot of council-owned land.
Officials have spoken to Darlington Borough Council about the plot and intend to submit a formal offer on Monday, the club said.
Mowden has reached agreement to buy the Arena for a sum believed to be in the region of £2m.
It is understood the club will be left with about £4m from the sale of their premises at Yiewsley Drive for housing.
Some of this money would be used to buy the extra land for the development of six more pitches, said Mowden chairman John Widdall.
He said: “It will remain primarily a rugby club, but we want to develop a wider sports base and involve the whole community.
“With all the minis, juniors and women, we are now running 23 teams and we need more space.
“There’s a shortage of international rugby in the North, but there’s no reason why the stadium shouldn’t stage an England Women’s game or England Under-18s.”
The rugby club had planned to move to a new site at West Park, but this deal collapsed.
Mr Widdall said: “We need to move, so we went to see the council about any parcels of land which might be available and the subject of the stadium cropped up.
“There are two plots of low-quality agricultural land next to it – one of 17 acres, one of 23.
“We are quite happy to talk to the football club again as their aim is obviously to get back into Darlington.
“We would also look at staging concerts.”
Mr Widdall added that the club may also speak to Newcastle Falcons, who it is rumoured were interested in buying the stadium. The chairman said they were aware of the costs involved in running the 25,000-seater Arena and said there were no expectations that Mowden’s average crowd of 200 would increase.
“The gate receipts don’t come into our calculations,”
“A lot of figures have been bandied about concerning the cost of running the stadium, but they are footballbased and involve things like match-day stewards.
“Any repairs that are currently needed will be sorted out with the owners in the sale process.
“After that, we know the running costs will be substantial, but we have the ability to manage that for a number of years until we establish an income stream.”
Bellway Homes has permission to build 67 houses on Mowden’s Yiewsley Drive site.
Mr Widdall said the club could move to the Arena this season if necessary.
“We don’t want to rush into it, but we’d like to see it all sorted out in three months,” he added.
DFC 1883 chairman Denis Pinnegar said last night that he would be happy to talk to the rugby club, adding: “We’re willing to talk to anyone who can help bring Darlington FC back to Darlington.”
However, although talks will take place, it is believed the football club would be reluctant to move back to the Arena in its present form, with many fans preferring a smaller stadium similar to the club’s temporary home in Bishop Auckland .