AN ambitious vision to develop The Northern Echo Arena into a multi-million pound sports village has been revealed.

Darlington Mowden Park (DMP) Rugby Football Club, owners of the town’s 25,000 seat sport arena, has approached Darlington Borough Council for support with the scheme which it believes could secure the venue’s future.

Although it is still in the early stages, the idea is for The Northern Echo Arena to become the centre piece of Darlington Sports Village, a new multi-sports destination featuring a leisure complex, sporting centre of excellence, retail area, village green and potentially housing to help fund the venture.

It would be developed across 23 acres of land belonging to DMP and up to 42 acres of adjacent council-owned land to the west of Neasham Road. The cost has not yet been established but it is likely to be tens of millions of pounds, with funding coming from the private sector.

Lee Rust, managing director of DMP, said a lot of work had already gone into the concept, which he said would build upon the many positive changes that had already been introduced since the club bought the site in 2012.

“From a sporting perspective it now hosts an array of clubs, school, community and leisure activity on a weekly basis,” he said.

“Darlington Sports Village represents a means to exponentially grow that activity and its associated benefits through considerable facility enhancements. It also represents a means to make the stadium far more accessible to public users.”

On December 5, Darlington Borough Council’s cabinet will consider a recommendation for council officers to work alongside the rugby club and interested private investors to develop a business plan for the concept.

In a report prepared for the meeting, the proposal is described as having the potential to achieve “significant economic regeneration including employment opportunities.”

The Northern Echo Arena was built on a green field site near the A66 bypass in 2003 as a home for Darlington Football Club. Unfortunately, its capacity of 25,000 was never met, with the ground rarely welcoming more than 2,000 supporters on match days. The financial strain of maintaining the ground was too much for the Quakers and the club was placed into administration three times before finally agreeing deals to share a ground with Shildon AFC in 2012 and later Bishop Auckland FC.

Ian Williams, the council’s director of economic growth, said: “We are excited about the proposals the rugby club has put forward but it is still a concept and we need to test the viability of it.

“At this stage it would be a case of exploring ideas, looking at what we could put where and what would and wouldn’t work.”

Mr Rust added: “We’re looking forward to progressing plans with key partners and having just recently announced a series of concerts for next summer it’s an exciting time for the club and the arena.’’