DARLINGTON Mowden Park have pulled off their audacious purchase of the town’s former football stadium and expect to play some rugby there before the end of this season.
“Everything has now been signed and we hope to get the stadium back in use by early February,” said chairman John Widdall.
“The pitch has been maintained, so we just need to put up some new posts. The players can’t wait to get on to it.”
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As the club has also bought 17 acres of adjacent land from the council they intend to develop a multi-sports facility, which would include a racket sports centre.
They have already held talks with Middlesbrough FC, who are interested in staging Under 21 matches at the ground, and a local gymnastics club have also expressed an interest.
“We have an option on buying a further 25 acres, but we will wait to see how many of the other sports become a reality,” said the club’s facilities development manager Dave Liddle.
“We are talking to the Rugby Football Union about staging England Saxons matches and we will also ask them about the possibility of having women’s internationals.”
Mowden’s ambitious plans have come swiftly to fruition since they were revealed in early September after more than a decade of frustration in attempting to move to new premises at West Park, close to the junction of the A68 and the A1.
They had expected work to start there last February, but a move which had been stymied at every turn continued to prove elusive.
Mowden have played for 40 years at Yiewsley Drive, where Yuills, who had built the houses, agreed to buy the rugby club’s land and gained planning permission for 67 houses seven years ago.
They withdrew their offer following the credit crunch, and the fact that they had a covenant on the land, saying only they could build on it, created further difficulties.
“We had to pay them a small sum to get round it,” said Widdall. “But now everything has been signed with Bellway Homes.”
Mowden are believed to be receiving about £6m from Bellway and have paid upwards of £2m for the former football stadium.
It is hoped work will begin in March on levelling the 17 acres of former agricultural land they have bought, where four pitches, plus a training pitch, will be created.
They will need all of those to cater for their 23 teams, including minis and juniors, plus the successful Mowden Sharks women’s team.
They insist they are aware of the maintenance costs at the 25,000-seat stadium, but Liddle says they are looking at ways of cutting the energy and water bill.
“We want to make it as green as possible,” he said. “We are looking at things like solar panels and bore hole for the water, plus any other technologies we can use.”