£5m Cougar Park stadium bid is a ‘boost for community’

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Keighley Cougars chairman Gary Fawcett with plans  for the Lawkholme Lane ground Keighley Cougars chairman Gary Fawcett with plans for the Lawkholme Lane ground

A £5 million new stadium is planned in Keighley as ambitious blueprints have been put forward by the town’s rugby league club to redevelop its Cougar Park base.

State-of-the-art facilities would be opened up to the community as part of the project.

A planning application for the first phase of the scheme – to rebuild the main stand – is expected to be submitted to Bradford Council before Christmas.

Further work will then include the provision of modern changing rooms and redevelopment of the gym, education facilities and function suites.

The initiative has been welcomed by community leaders, who say it will provide a massive boost, not just to the club, but to the whole town.

Keighley Cougars chairman, Gary Fawcett, said the existing main stand dated from the 1930s and was in desperate need of major refurbishment.

“It has received a lick of paint over the years, but otherwise has remained untouched,” he said.

“The plan is to completely strip back the wooden structure to the original steel frame and use that as the basis for a new design.

“We will be increasing the capacity of the stand, with covered seating for 870 and new terrace space to the front.”

The whole scheme would be carried out in nine phases, over about five years.

Funding would be obtained through a combination of grants and loans, and from public donations.

Mr Fawcett said the new stadium would provide a focal point for the town and the benefits of the improved facilities would be felt by many people.

“It will give us more education space to work with school children from across the area,” he said.

“We already have a number of groups – such as toddlers and dancers – who use the facilities. It will improve provision for them, but also provide an excellent, modern environment for other people looking for a venue.”

The venture has the support of the Rugby Football League, whose chief operating officer Ralph Rimmer said: “The stadium already holds a special place in the hearts of the people of Keighley and this redevelopment will enhance its place as the focal point of the local community.

“The RFL will offer what practical help it can to assist Keighley Cougars realise their goal of providing a 21st-century facility that I am sure will encourage more people to become involved in rugby league.”

Keighley MP Kris Hopkins welcomed the scheme.

“Cougar Park – where I am proud to say I have played myself – is looking tired now and is certainly deserving of a major upgrade,” he said.

“I hope the planned improvements will give a significant boost to the team on the field and encourage more spectators to go along and support the club.

“Better facilities will also enable the stadium to play an even greater role as a community resource. I know the club takes its community work very seriously and does a terrific job in bringing people together and encouraging an active lifestyle.

”The Cougars deserve great credit for these efforts and I hope the plans are able to proceed."

Riverside Design Studio Architects, based at Saltaire, said it had worked closely with the club, construction professionals and the Council over the plans.

Spokesman James Robinson said: “Early discussions with Bradford Council’s planning department have been extremely supportive and a finalised proposal for the early phase will be submitted formally very shortly."

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