What next for the Darlington Arena?

Darlington and Stockton Times: Darlington Arena, pictured this week Darlington Arena, pictured this week

With Darlington FC set to move to a new ground next season, what will happen to its home for the past nine years – the 25,000 seater Darlington Arena? Stuart Arnold explores the potential options for the site on the outskirts of the town.

SUPERMARKET OR RETAIL DEVELOPMENT: WITH easy access to the A66 and the A1(M) the site would be attractive to a large supermarket chain, such as Tesco, which has previously tried and failed to build a supermarket in Darlington town centre. But it would be extremely unlikely to get planning permission. In a joint statement earlier this year Darlington Borough Council and businessmen Philip Scott and Graham Sizer – who own the stadium site – agreed as much, saying it would be against local and national planning policy and have a negative effect on town centre shops.

VERDICT: Very unlikely, especially with a large Morrison’s supermarket already at nearby Morton Park.

HOMES: AN “eco-homes” plan formed part of a proposal by a Yorkshire-based consortium that was previously in the running to take over the football club.

The proposal is thought to have won some support from within the council; however, it would need formal planning permission and any substantial housing development on what was previously green belt land is sure to raise a number of objections. There would also be issues with access.

VERDICT: An outside possibility, especially if the stadium is demolished and agreement for the land is reached with Mr Scott and Mr Sizer.

ENTERTAINMENT VENUE: THE Arena already has permission to stage a number of concerts each year.

In June 2008, a concert by Sir Elton John drew 17,000 people – still the biggest crowd to date. But due to the costs of staging it, it failed to turn a profit for the football club. A number of acts were subsequently approached, including boyband JLS, but no further shows have been staged. There is potentially a large catchment area of concert-goers extending into County Durham, Teesside and North Yorkshire who have to travel to Newcastle, Sunderland, further south to Leeds – where a new arena is being built – or Sheffield to see major concerts, so the venue could score in terms of its location. But would enough big names be attracted on a regular basis to make it commercially viable when there would be existing competition from elsewhere?

VERDICT: Hard to see how a standalone entertainment venue would make it pay, but successfully staged occasional concerts would supplement core income from a sports club.

HOTEL: PLANNING permission remains in place for a hotel and associated development on the site, dating back to April 2008 when George Houghton was in charge of the football club.

This was to entail a hotel, football academy and leisure complex. The wheels could be set in motion relatively easily with the signing of a legal agreement between the council and any developer who could negotiate a deal to buy the land. However, the plans previously stalled because of a lack of investors and such a development would hinge again on outside investment.

VERDICT: Remains the most practical option, setting aside a continued use for the stadium, but might be something of a risk in the continued gloomy economic climate.

SPORT: IT is understood there has been previous interest in the stadium from the Newcastle Falcons rugby union club – which already draws support from across the region – although this came to nothing. But it would still be a gamble to move 40 miles south and expect to attract enough of a crowd to make it a viable financial option, especially if the Falcons are relegated from the Premiership.

VERDICT: Might still happen, particularly if there is a groundswell in the town to retain the stadium for a sporting use.

Comments (18)

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8:34am Sat 5 May 12

oliviaden6 says...

The whole sorry saga of this football team and stadium/land issues is a shame for Darlington and the North East. People want to do things with the stadium but the council and owners are just putting obstacles in every ones way. Perhaps if a few more PALMS were greased things might happen??????????????
?
The whole sorry saga of this football team and stadium/land issues is a shame for Darlington and the North East. People want to do things with the stadium but the council and owners are just putting obstacles in every ones way. Perhaps if a few more PALMS were greased things might happen?????????????? ? oliviaden6
  • Score: 0

10:53am Sat 5 May 12

DarloJon says...

From the photo, suggest it is returned to agriculture, probably best for growing rice in a paddy field.
From the photo, suggest it is returned to agriculture, probably best for growing rice in a paddy field. DarloJon
  • Score: 1

11:36am Sat 5 May 12

GeordieB says...

This could be a fantastic venue for entertainment if only the council would take off the shackles.
This could be a fantastic venue for entertainment if only the council would take off the shackles. GeordieB
  • Score: 0

2:12pm Sat 5 May 12

Allanopie says...

Ah , yes , Elton John , i heard 90 % of money made from this concert , went back to The Council , if this is to be true , if this is to be true , this explains why no more gig,s or concert,s were planned ! Please correct me on this ! Then on the other hand , The Council say they did a lot for D.F.C. ! What do we believe ! The Council are the only winners , in the situation ??? Let,s have the TRUTH out in the open !
Ah , yes , Elton John , i heard 90 % of money made from this concert , went back to The Council , if this is to be true , if this is to be true , this explains why no more gig,s or concert,s were planned ! Please correct me on this ! Then on the other hand , The Council say they did a lot for D.F.C. ! What do we believe ! The Council are the only winners , in the situation ??? Let,s have the TRUTH out in the open ! Allanopie
  • Score: 0

5:36pm Sat 5 May 12

Spy Boy says...

It will be a massive waste to lose this facility completely when it has so much potential for both sporting and musical events. You may be in the open, but the acoustics will be 100% better than the Newcastle Arena, as was shown at the Elton John concert. If the cash strapped council can raise this sort of cash from events, they should be forced by the ratepayers to down this route and bring some urgently needed cash to the town.

I must say that the idea of a Hotel / Football Academy / Sporting Arena is a good idea, especially as it lends itself for use by our football club for any special games and musical events too.
It will be a massive waste to lose this facility completely when it has so much potential for both sporting and musical events. You may be in the open, but the acoustics will be 100% better than the Newcastle Arena, as was shown at the Elton John concert. If the cash strapped council can raise this sort of cash from events, they should be forced by the ratepayers to down this route and bring some urgently needed cash to the town. I must say that the idea of a Hotel / Football Academy / Sporting Arena is a good idea, especially as it lends itself for use by our football club for any special games and musical events too. Spy Boy
  • Score: 0

5:38pm Sat 5 May 12

Catherinet says...

I'm not a footie fan, but I'd go to watch Rugby. If they get a few decent bands in I'm sorted :)
I'm not a footie fan, but I'd go to watch Rugby. If they get a few decent bands in I'm sorted :) Catherinet
  • Score: 0

8:14pm Sat 5 May 12

stiv says...

****!
****! stiv
  • Score: 0

8:13am Sun 6 May 12

stevegg says...

Newcastle Falcons at the arena! I doubt it. Sell the stadium to another up and coming football club who can dismantle it and rebuild it at their site (as they did with the East stand at Feethams). An ideal site for a Tesco superstore or multiplex cinema but of course the council would never allow it.
Newcastle Falcons at the arena! I doubt it. Sell the stadium to another up and coming football club who can dismantle it and rebuild it at their site (as they did with the East stand at Feethams). An ideal site for a Tesco superstore or multiplex cinema but of course the council would never allow it. stevegg
  • Score: 0

10:06am Sun 6 May 12

morgan1 says...

I think its sad, the people who bought the club did so for its history. Well the arena is part of that and always will be you cannot escape its mark.

Too many people are living in the past with this club, I have members of Feethams with my dad but you have to move on, afterall they are memories.

The club will never be the same again, its lost its home, its lost its financial potential as a CIC.

Maybe what Darlington needs is a completely new club to get behind, so we can shake of the history.

Maybe the Northern Echo should raise a few questions to ask the towns people what they would like to see happen.
I think its sad, the people who bought the club did so for its history. Well the arena is part of that and always will be you cannot escape its mark. Too many people are living in the past with this club, I have members of Feethams with my dad but you have to move on, afterall they are memories. The club will never be the same again, its lost its home, its lost its financial potential as a CIC. Maybe what Darlington needs is a completely new club to get behind, so we can shake of the history. Maybe the Northern Echo should raise a few questions to ask the towns people what they would like to see happen. morgan1
  • Score: 1

10:14am Sun 6 May 12

morgan1 says...

Afterall it was the Northern Echo Arena, they have pledged some money at least before the CIC announcement.

Is the Northen Echo happy with this way forward for their pledge.
Afterall it was the Northern Echo Arena, they have pledged some money at least before the CIC announcement. Is the Northen Echo happy with this way forward for their pledge. morgan1
  • Score: 0

11:38am Sun 6 May 12

David Lacey says...

The only practical solution is to sell the stadium, dismantle it and return the land to agriculture.
The only practical solution is to sell the stadium, dismantle it and return the land to agriculture. David Lacey
  • Score: 0

1:12pm Sun 6 May 12

quakersam says...

Q) Is the Northen Echo happy with this way forward for their pledge.

Ans: Why don't you go ask them?
Q) Is the Northen Echo happy with this way forward for their pledge. Ans: Why don't you go ask them? quakersam
  • Score: 0

1:28pm Sun 6 May 12

monteforte says...

Only in a town like Darlington can a quality stadium like the Arena go to rack and ruin while nobody views it as an asset.and likewise the heritage of Feethams be lost .It's wrong that some unelected non footballing trust is allowed to sell the site where the worlds first black professional footballer played.Let's not forget this land was given to the town for sports..Now it's to used for housing.

Meanwhile, Darlington Football Club has no money, and nowhere to play.

Where were the council when all of this was allowed to happen? Where are they now? We know where the towns MP was, she was supporting Singh
DFC1883 need funds for our new ground.
If the Arena is sold and the council gets all the money through the covenants currently in place andit should reinvest them in a suitable ground for Darlo FC
Only in a town like Darlington can a quality stadium like the Arena go to rack and ruin while nobody views it as an asset.and likewise the heritage of Feethams be lost .It's wrong that some unelected non footballing trust is allowed to sell the site where the worlds first black professional footballer played.Let's not forget this land was given to the town for sports..Now it's to used for housing. Meanwhile, Darlington Football Club has no money, and nowhere to play. Where were the council when all of this was allowed to happen? Where are they now? We know where the towns MP was, she was supporting Singh DFC1883 need funds for our new ground. If the Arena is sold and the council gets all the money through the covenants currently in place andit should reinvest them in a suitable ground for Darlo FC monteforte
  • Score: 0

9:29pm Sun 6 May 12

The White Feather says...

IF the rumours are true and I stress "rumours" that Darlo will not be even playing in darlington next season then I want my £1000 back! I put money in to keep them in the town not away from it.
IF the rumours are true and I stress "rumours" that Darlo will not be even playing in darlington next season then I want my £1000 back! I put money in to keep them in the town not away from it. The White Feather
  • Score: 1

10:34pm Sun 6 May 12

andyparks ex newbloke says...

The White Feather wrote:
IF the rumours are true and I stress "rumours" that Darlo will not be even playing in darlington next season then I want my £1000 back! I put money in to keep them in the town not away from it.
Shut up you massive bell end
You put in a grand my arse!
Go and cash ya giro you muppet
[quote][p][bold]The White Feather[/bold] wrote: IF the rumours are true and I stress "rumours" that Darlo will not be even playing in darlington next season then I want my £1000 back! I put money in to keep them in the town not away from it.[/p][/quote]Shut up you massive bell end You put in a grand my arse! Go and cash ya giro you muppet andyparks ex newbloke
  • Score: 0

9:22am Mon 7 May 12

The White Feather says...

andyparks ex newbloke wrote:
The White Feather wrote:
IF the rumours are true and I stress "rumours" that Darlo will not be even playing in darlington next season then I want my £1000 back! I put money in to keep them in the town not away from it.
Shut up you massive bell end
You put in a grand my arse!
Go and cash ya giro you muppet
I think you will find I do work and earn £1200 a month, have never been on benefits in my life. I struggle to support a family so this investment is very big to me - wonder how many others have invested so heavily.
[quote][p][bold]andyparks ex newbloke[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]The White Feather[/bold] wrote: IF the rumours are true and I stress "rumours" that Darlo will not be even playing in darlington next season then I want my £1000 back! I put money in to keep them in the town not away from it.[/p][/quote]Shut up you massive bell end You put in a grand my arse! Go and cash ya giro you muppet[/p][/quote]I think you will find I do work and earn £1200 a month, have never been on benefits in my life. I struggle to support a family so this investment is very big to me - wonder how many others have invested so heavily. The White Feather
  • Score: 0

12:44pm Mon 7 May 12

kristal27 says...

Dismantle the stadium and turn the site into a permanentTravellers site - there are already Travellers all around that area so would sort out the problem -wouldn't it?
Dismantle the stadium and turn the site into a permanentTravellers site - there are already Travellers all around that area so would sort out the problem -wouldn't it? kristal27
  • Score: 0

3:10pm Mon 7 May 12

DM1989 says...

kristal27 wrote:
Dismantle the stadium and turn the site into a permanentTravellers site - there are already Travellers all around that area so would sort out the problem -wouldn't it?
I'm sure that would go down well.
[quote][p][bold]kristal27[/bold] wrote: Dismantle the stadium and turn the site into a permanentTravellers site - there are already Travellers all around that area so would sort out the problem -wouldn't it?[/p][/quote]I'm sure that would go down well. DM1989
  • Score: 5

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