A long-held sporting dream of building a dedicated leisure village in Scarborough could soon become a reality – with the return of senior football to the town envisaged by the start of the 2014/2015 season.
Council officials are currently studying “detailed solutions” from three bidders with final tenders – to develop a new multi-purpose sports centre on the former Weaponness coach and car park – expected to be submitted next month.
The proposed development would feature a 2,000 capacity football ground, an outdoor multi–use games area, an eight-lane 25m swimming pool and a sports centre comprising an indoor hall, fitness suite, activity studio and squash courts.
Hilary Jones, Scarborough Council’s strategic director, said: “We are looking to deliver sporting facilities fit for the 21st century, as well as re-establish a new base for football in the town.
“As is to be expected at this stage, there is a lot of information to digest and interpret. And before the council closes the detailed solutions stage and invites final tenders, it needs to be absolutely certain that those final bids meet the needs of the council and be in a form that the council can accept, both legally and financially.”
Mrs Jones said that it was important to get the right size facilities within the development to meet local needs as well as comply with the specifications laid down by organisations such as Sport England.
She added: “The bidders are due to attend a further dialogue meeting and after this a private and confidential report will be presented to cabinet in September on the outcome of the submissions.
“The report will update members on the range of bids received including variants, the facilities being proposed, the cost of the facilities, and the recommended way forward. The report will also request permission for a public consultation on some aspects of the bids.
“Following the cabinet report it is also planned to hold further meetings with the football clubs that are interested in using the new community football ground.”
She added that, while the process seemed to take a long time, there had been a lot of work going on behind the scenes. “We are not just building an office block. What we are trying to build is a facility that will meet a whole range of sporting needs.”
All of the bidders looking to develop the Weaponness site have been provided with additional information to help them refine their submissions – including the findings of ground investigation work and preliminary traffic modelling.
Once the tendering process has been concluded, the council’s development partner will build the new leisure village in exchange for a package of land which will include the site of the former McCain Stadium in Seamer Road, Filey Road Sports and Tennis Centre, remaining land on the Weaponness site and the current site of the swimming pool in Ryndle Crescent.
It is expected that a recommendation for the preferred bidder will be made to cabinet and full council by December, or January, and the project would take between 12 and 18 months to complete.
The council is also pursuing a number of grant applications with a variety of sports organisations to help fund the new leisure village, including Sport England and the Football Foundation, with discussions also taking place with the Amateur Swimming Association and the England Squash and Racketball Association.
Mrs Jones said: “We feel we are approaching a critical phase at the moment. The next phase we have to get through is the formal tender process.”
Chris Bourne, the council’s projects manager, said that 70 per cent of people had supported the proposed development brief during a previous consultation. “The preparation work is time well invested and I am hoping for a quick planning process.”
He added that they were in talks with the town’s two swimming clubs who had given an assessment over the future of the sport in Scarborough. “We did start off going for a national standard pool but we couldn’t justify it and went for county level.”
Mr Bourne said that all senior football clubs in Scarborough would would be invited to play at the stadium – which would not be regarded as just the home of Scarborough Athletic FC – and it could also be used by other sectors of the community such as schools.
The planned 2,000 capacity stadium has the potential to be increased to 3,000 should a need for the higher specification arise in the future.
Mr Bourne said that the three bids had all followed the development brief guidelines. “They are very, very, close. They are all of good quality. In terms of layout they are all looking good. They all make the best use of the land,” he added.
Brian Bennett, the council’s head of tourism and culture, said that Sport England had a lot of input as part of the “iconic facilities bid” which aimed to provide functional buildings which were fit for purpose.