It seems an age since Castleford Tigers first announced they would be moving to a new stadium.
It was over a decade ago when the then chief executive Richard Wright revealed plans for a new home opposite the Xscape at Junction 32, Glasshoughton. Those plans fell foul when, in 2012, the supermarket firm that was to buy their old ground – the Jungle – put the move on hold.
Talks of redeveloping Wheldon Road never got off the ground, yet, in 2014 there was reason for Tigers fans to be enthusiastic. Not only was new boss Daryl Powell – appointed in May 2013 – in the process of steering Castleford to a Challenge Cup Final and the club’s highest Super League finish since the summer game began, a new stadium seemed to be on the horizon once more.
A £135 million would bring a new retail offer to the mining town of Castleford, along with a country park and significant highways improvements. Included was to be a new 10,000-capacity stadium which would be funded entirely by the retail development next to the M62.
The group in charge of the development, the Lateral Property Group, hoped the Tigers would be in their new complex for the 2017 Super League season. Since then, numerous hold-ups have pushed this target back year-by-year. And, with little to no news for a good few months, Castleford fans were getting used to the idea of another false hope.
Yet, just when the new stadium looked lost amongst the precarious financial situation of the country, the silence was finally broken in early March this year. Lateral Property Group – who renamed the original Five Towns Park to AXIOM in February 2018 – apologized for the lack of communication and reminded fans of the £30 million plus spent on the project so far.
The Group revealed that they had submitted their reserved matters planning applications for highways, infrastructure, the community stadium, country park and the retail development and that Wakefield Council’s planning committee will decide on these matters on 14 March.
Whilst the uncertainty surrounding Brexit is hampering almost anything financial in the country at present, large retail stores such as Marks & Spencer, Primark, Boots and Next are still committed to the project with the likes of H&M and JD Sports recently adding their names to the list.
2022 is the designated target for opening with work expected to be undertaken in late summer of this year – an aim the Lateral Property Group said allowed for political and economic uncertainty.
Throughout the whole process, Lateral have never made exaggerated promises or released news presses for the sake of it. In fact, their consultations with the public have been informative and effective. Whereas some updates could cause doubts, Lateral’s have reassured the Castleford fans.
The fans know that a new stadium is imperative for development on and off the field. The likes of Leeds and St Helens can generate income all year round with functions and even concerts whereas the Jungle lives up to its name.
Though generating a fantastic atmosphere on match days, it’s inhospitable for most of the year with its dilapidated standing and seating hardly conducive to hosting finals and events. A new stadium would give the club the impetus to generate more income, in turn, giving head coach Daryl Powell more financial freedom to build the squad he wants.
Silverware has been firmly in the Tigers’ sight since Powell took over the reins, yet just one League Leaders’ Shield has been won in six years. Silverware is not an automatic guarantee of a new stadium – just look at Salford who are still struggling in terms of attendances since their move from the Willows – but it can definitely be the catalyst the Tigers need to propel them to glory. And, if the Lateral update is anything to go by, Castleford fans’ prayers may well be – finally – coming true.