A STADIUM preparing to host its first competitive rugby matches will continue to be known as The Northern Echo Darlington Arena, it can be revealed today.
Darlington Mowden Park rugby club, which bought the 25,000-seat stadium in December, has agreed an in-kind sponsorship deal with The Northern Echo.
The stadium has stood dormant since last year, when Darlington FC moved out following a fans’ takeover.
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It is now a hive of activity once more, with rugby club officials settling in to their new surroundings ahead of the first team’s opening game at the ground next month.
Club chairman John Widdall is confident of a bumper attendance for the first game against Bromsgrove, on Saturday, February 2.
Players have started using the pitch for training, with plans in place for the rugby posts to be installed shortly.
David Coates, managing director of Newsquest Yorkshire and North-East, publishers of The Northern Echo, said: “The Northern Echo and Newsquest are delighted to continue supporting local sport in Darlington and the arrival of Darlington Mowden Park Rugby Club at The Northern Echo Arena is to be welcomed.
“We think the club’s plans for the future are exciting and we fully intend to be there to support them along the way.”
New signage reflecting the stadium’s change in ownership will be put in place on the exterior of the main stand at the arena in the coming weeks.
Asked how the club was settling in to its new home, facilities development manager Dave Liddle said: “There are still a few surprises when we are going round, lots of things that need fixing that we thought were OK.
“It is a much bigger facility than we have had and we are trying to plan a structure around that to get as much use out of it as possible.”
As well as the stadium, the club has also bought a 17-acre plot of adjacent land and has ambitious plans to develop a multi-sports facility including training pitches.
Mr Liddle said a planning application was due to be submitted shortly, with the club hopeful of starting work later in the year.
Talks have been held with a number of interested parties over letting space inside the stadium for business use, with announcements expected over the coming weeks.