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Wednesday, 30 July 2014

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Nuclear godsend or white elephant?

THE blueprint for our new community sports centre has certainly sparked some debate – for and against.

A weighty response to the plans first published in last week’s Whitehaven News illustrates a mixed bag of interest.

Mostly in favour of the stadium going ahead. Which barring any last gasp hitches it most certainly will.

Talk by some detractors of it proving a white elephant and a waste of taxpayers’ money is way off the mark.

Plans for wide community use other than providing greater home comforts for Whitehaven rugby league and soccer clubs, plus the need to ensure value for money, will ensure it’s not a white elephant. More of a nuclear God-send, I’d say.

For by no stretch of the imagination is it taxpayers’ money being spent.

Financiers, by and large, are Sellafield overlords Nuclear Management Partners.

While government cash does underpin Sellafield’s work, American-led NMP generates its own profits – a cool £50 million in one year at the last count.

NMP also happen to be Whitehaven RL Club’s main sponsors so no doubt they know a decent investment.

This kind of sports facility is well overdue.

Without the nuclear largesse it would still be pipe-dream stuff.

There have been, and still are, plenty of advocates of Copeland Stadium (Cumbria Academy of Sport), being further developed instead.

I’ve been among them. Despite having watched Haven play at The Recre for more years than I can remember, I wasn’t much bothered about a potential move up to Hensingham but rightly or wrongly the Copeland Stadium argument is dead in the water.

Most of the initial £5.5 million for the Whitehaven (or Copeland) community stadium is already in the bag. What’s needed now is the new lease giving security of land tenure to make sure the scheme totally stacks up.

Good news is that the requisite 25-year-lease has been agreed with the Miners Welfare through its parent organisation (CISWO) and is all set to be signed off by the parties concerned. So it ought to be all systems go, subject, of course, to planning approval which may come next month or soon after so that construction can start – taking nothing for granted of course.

Fair comments have been made that not enough time has been set aside for scrutiny of the stadium plans – unveiled for only four hours last Thursday afternoon – but they are still on show in Whitehaven Civic Hall and will probably get a proper consultation during the formal council planning process.

We’ve waited too long for things to go wrong, the cash is there for a priority British Energy Coast purpose. Some will no doubt continue to make waves but there can be no question of looking a gift horse in the mouth.

Subject to funding I’m assured the new stadium can be brought up to RL Super League standards – minimum capacity used to be 8,000, now it’s 10,000 and may even go up to 12,000.

For now it’s going to be a genuine community stadium. That said how long have we waited for the chance to watch professional RL in comfort?

And who wants to wait in a long queue to get squashed at one bar for some half time refreshment and risk missing the start of the last 40 minutes?

By the way, at the last home game, wasn’t it good to get a first-ever cappuccino at The Recre – the real coffee and posh (Earl Grey) bar which suddenly appeared at the last home game was a most welcome eye-opener.

Apparently it was the idea of Haven co-owner Mrs JD Raaz, some I hear doubted the wisdom but for me it raised the bar so here’s proving the lady is proved right.

More good things to follow no doubt but as for now let’s get on with it and making things happen.

Fans are drifting back to the games by virtue of some decent entertainment on the field and there will be nothing better than to herald the improvement by recording a double at Keighley on Sunday – a real yardstick especially as The Cougars will have player/coach Jason Demetriou in harness.

Haven welcome back Andreas Bauer from his stint in France and isn’t bothered where he plays in the backs – just as well bearing in mind the injuries, but the Kiwi could make a difference.

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