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The Insider: Newcastle United sell off land next to St James' Park
7:00am Saturday 22nd March 2014 in Sport
NEWCASTLE UNITED have begun the process of selling a plot of land that had previously been earmarked for a possible expansion of St James’ Park.
The decision to offload the 1.62-acre site at Strawberry Place, immediately behind the Gallowgate End of the ground, effectively kills off any possibility of expanding St James’ beyond its current capacity of 52,387.
The plot, which is currently leased to Newcastle City Council and used as a car park, is being sold by Newcastle United Holdings Ltd, and is understood to have attracted interest as a possible site for a new hotel, retail outlet or block of student accommodation.
Newcastle acquired a 125-year lease of the site in 1998, and the current relationship with the Council is due to end in September.
Bidding for the plot opened at the end of last year and has now closed, with a number of potential developers having come forward.
While Freddy Shepherd was chairman, plans were drawn up to carry out a £300m development of St James’ Park and its adjacent land to increase capacity to 60,000 and add a hotel, conference centre and luxury apartments.
However, Mike Ashley has clearly decided that the additional capacity is not required and has opted to sell the land on rather than develop it himself.
NEWCASTLE FALCONS have categorically ruled out a relocation that might have seen them ground-share with Darlington Mowden Park at The Northern Echo Arena.
Falcons no longer own their Kingston Park ground, having recently sold it to Northumbria University, and while they are currently leasing it back from the academic institution, there have been persistent rumours about a potential move south to attract new supporters.
However, at a Fans’ Forum at Kingston Park earlier this week, Falcons owner Semore Kurdi pledged to remain at the ground for the remaining three years of the club’s current lease, and expressed confidence that he would be able to successfully negotiate an extension to the agreement.
To reinforce their commitment to Kingston Park, Falcons officials also pledged to invest in a new 4G playing surface.
“We have three years left on our lease, this season and three more seasons,” said Kurdi. “We are planning on the next three years, and we are happy enough to be spending money on the pitch because of all the benefits that will bring, including a lot more running rugby.
"I am quite happy here. Three years is a long time to get to negotiate with the university between now and then. It is early days to be saying we will be here forever, because generally you would start talking 18 months away from the lease expiring.
"There is no plan to relocate, no intention to look for anywhere else, and I am pretty confident things will be all right here.”
Kurdi also confirmed that his attempts to take over Gateshead Thunder rugby league club remain ongoing.
BBC TEES will break new ground next weekend when they provide their first ever live commentary on a boxing contest.
The station will provide live coverage of Stuart Hall’s IBF World Bantamweight showdown with fellow North-Easterner Martin Ward from Newcastle’s Metro Radio Arena.
Rob Law will be in the commentary seat, with Billy Hardy providing expert analysis alongside him.
ASPIRING fitness instructors and sports coaches across the North-East can kick-start their career with free help from Sunderland’s Foundation of Light.
Sunderland’s official charity has launched a new BTEC Level 2 Diploma in Sport – and is accepting late sign ups until March 26.
The 20-week course, which is running at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light, is specifically designed for people aged 19 and over who are interested in pursuing a career in sport and leisure.
Anyone interested in attending should contact Paul Leach on 0191 5515319 or email@example.com before March 26.
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