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Sheffield Eagles announce Olympic Park Legacy Park Stadium

Sheffield Eagles will return to the site of the old Don Valley Stadium in 2016, when they move in to a new state-of-the-art community stadium in the Olympic Legacy Park.

The Eagles have secured a significant investment to help fund the building of the stadium, which will feature a high quality synthetic pitch, an impressive main stand, a 50-bed hotel, catering and hospitality areas, and facilities developed in partnership with Sheffield’s second University Technical College.

Plans for the new Legacy Park are well advanced and the first phase of the re-development is already underway with the building of a new school catering for children from 2 to 16 years. The school will open its Primary phase in September 2015, with the Secondary phase opening a year later. At the same time, Sheffield’s second University Technical College (UTC) will open on the same site, specializing in human sciences and digital technologies.

Sheffield Eagles new community stadium will be at the hub of these developments and the club is already working in partnership with the school, the UTC, Sheffield City Council and Sheffield Hallam University to a common vision for education, health and wellbeing in the community.

The Eagles have secured a GBP£6m investment to build a main stand, incorporating a 50-bed hotel, restaurant and hospitality facilities along one side of the ground, and there are plans to develop joint facilities with the UTC within the stadium complex.

Additional funding has also been agreed for a high quality synthetic pitch similar to those used by Saracens and Newcastle Falcons in Rugby Union’s Premiership. The pitch will have a specification for use at Super League, Rugby Union Premiership and international level, but will also be used by the school and the UTC for their PE and Sport needs and be available for community use.

Ian Anniss, Sheffield Eagles Director of Community, Development and Education, said:

When we heard that Don Valley was to close we realised that this could be a terminal blow to Sheffield Eagles as a club, but we have always had to work hard against the odds to survive, so we rolled up our sleeves, thought creatively and formed partnerships with others who have shared a common vision of securing a long term legacy in sport, health and well-being for the site.   At first many said that it was just a pipe dream that would never happen, but we had to make it happen if Eagles were to survive and thrive in Sheffield and the game of Rugby League not be lost to this great city.

We have worked with some remarkably talented and visionary people on this project and it is an outstanding testament to what can be achieved by genuine partnership working.

The new stadium will be like no other in this country, in that it will be designed and managed to have multiple uses that reflect the needs of the broader community as well as being a top class facility for performance rugby of both codes. Unlike many sports stadia that has limited uses this one will be constantly in use – for educational and research purposes, community activities, sports development and health and well being support, as well as a venue for professional rugby – and Sheffield Eagles are proud to be part of that as a true community club.

Whilst it is important to appreciate the Eagles role in the broader partnership for the Olympic Legacy Park, it also should not be under estimated just how critical the new stadium will be for the club’s ambitions on the field.

Sheffield Eagles Chief Executive and Head Coach, Mark Aston, said:

The new ground gives us the impetus to challenge for and achieve Super League status, something we have never given up on. When we nearly lost the club back into 1999 and reformed with a new direction, the Directors and I have always kept as a key goal that of returning to the highest level. We have had to be patient and work within our means, but now we will be ready to take the next step. Having the best facilities at the new stadium will allow us to continue the development of our own local talent, retain and attract quality players and be very competitive as a Club.

Establishing Rugby League in Sheffield has often been a struggle, and the loss of Don Valley Stadium was an additional challenge for the Eagles and their fans. Despite being back-to-back Champions in 2012 and 2013, it looked as if the club’s steady upward progress had been checked with the loss of their home ground. At one point it even seemed that the club might have to leave the City permanently to survive. However, the Eagles stuck with their fans and with Sheffield and are now set to reap a big reward.

Anniss commented: “I am especially pleased for our fans, who have been remarkably loyal. The new stadium will give us a fresh start in a venue that we can call our own. It will be a brilliant place to watch rugby and I am sure we can then build our support further and go from success to success. It allows us to build our profile, engage more people and get more people watching and playing rugby. Our ambition is to be one of the best clubs in Rugby League and this is a massive step in that direction.”

Sheffield will take centrestage in the delivery of an exciting Olympic legacy project for health and sport that will bring long term benefits for the nation‘ was the message delivered at a briefing by former Sports Minister the Rt. Hon Richard Caborn and Sheffield City Council leader Julie Dore earlier this week. At the ‘heart’ will be the creation of an Olympic Legacy Park on the site of the former Don Valley Stadium in the city’s East End.

It will feature a new Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre (AWRC) which represents a unique opportunity for the practical development of the country’s wellbeing agenda and delivering the 2012 Olympic Legacy on Health. The AWRC will be based in a multi-million state of-the-art facility, the centrepiece of the new Olympic Legacy Park, which will feature exciting new indoor and outdoor facilities allowing the design, research, evaluation and implementation of products linking the medical, physical activity, leisure and sports sectors.

The development will see the Sheffield Eagles Rugby League club move into a new community stadium and facilities developed in partnership with Sheffield second University Technical College (UTC). A new sustainable multi-purpose indoor community arena will be the future home of the Sheffield Sharks. The facility will be built through private investment and crucially deliver an affordable, functional and flexible building for sport, culture and business. With 3 full size courts and seating up to 3,000 people, the venue will complement the other facilities on the Park, increasing community and education access and attracting further events to the City. The Sheffield-based sports and events business, MLS, will also move into the new facility.

The Park – a joint venture between Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals Sheffield City Council and the private sector – has attracted nearly £40m of investment from the private sector (for basketball, rugby and a hotel), a second University Technical College and a school. A further £10m is being sought from the Regional Growth Fund.

Both the Park and the AWRC have the backing of the city’s two Universities, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Sheffield College, the local authority and the Sheffield Chamber of Commerce.

The AWRC model will mirror the highly successful Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (straddling the Sheffield-Rotherham border) which has successfully created a £150m Advanced Manufacturing Park where companies such as Boeing and Rolls Royce are located.

The AWRC will take services and products from concept to market,  maximising wealth and job creation opportunities from the intellectual property and knowledge and products developed in the centre.  It will be home to around 50 researchers who will have fully instrumented indoor and outdoor laboratories capable of carrying out research on most physical activities. The facility will allow research on all sports but will be of particular benefit to those housed in the nearby English Institute of Sport.

There will be clinical facilities on site, working in conjunction with the National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine (NCSEM). Facilities will include MRI, X-ray and ultrasound. The AWRC will be the research hub for the NSCEM with a remit to use physical activity as medicine. Through the NCSEM, the AWRC will use the city of Sheffield as a ‘field lab’ for the testing of new innovations.

The Olympic Legacy Park project leader Richard Caborn said:

We are taking the city’s heritage into a modern setting.

This project has three clear objectives. We will deliver a multi-sports community stadium which can accommodate professional sports and will wash its face financially. Through the AWRC, we will bring academia, the medical profession and the full spread of physical activity across the City, from sedentary lifestyles to elite and professional athletes. In the words of Lord Coe, Sheffield will undertake world-class research and provide services that will deliver long-term, systematic change to benefit the health of the nation.

Finally, we will deliver knowledge, intellectual property and practical development of products and services to the wealth creating sectors of health, wellbeing and sports sectors with the Sheffield City region.

Mr Caborn added that he will be addressing a conference next week focusing on the AWRC and the private sector. International and local companies such as BBraun, Siemens, Panosonic, Toshiba and Medi Link will be attending along with representatives of the Cabinet Office, the International Olympic Committee and Public Health England.

Professor Karen Bryan, AWRC Board member and Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean for the faculty of Health and Wellbeing at Sheffield Hallam University, said:

As the top modern university in the north of England, Sheffield Hallam puts the science into sport. With our world-renowned expertise in health-care and sports science, we are delighted to be working with our partners to continue to realise the vision for the AWRC.

Richard Wright, Executive Director of the Sheffield Chamber of Commerce added:

The commercial opportunities around the whole wellness agenda and its associated technology are possibly one of the biggest opportunities Sheffield has seen for years. In many ways it is one of the legacies of our investment in sport in the region. The city now has over 100 sport/activity related businesses and by linking that expertise to health we can be one of the best cities in the world for improving the health of a population. The Chamber cannot think of a more fitting use for the site of the Don Valley Stadium.