Half a million pounds has been agreed to progress through detailed feasibility plans for a bold £20m “Sports Village” at the Darlington Arena which could create more than 200 jobs.
Darlington Council working with Darlington Mowden Park RFC have proposed a mixed-use development that would facilitate an exciting array of new leisure and sporting partners on land adjacent to the Arena.
After conducting initial work the club and council sought support from the Tees Valley Combined Authority to further develop the business case including detailed feasibility works on the site which it hopes to transform into a Sports Village by 2020, with work starting next year.
The authority has agreed to back the case with £449,950 and the council will provide an additional £50,000.
The development is part of a wider plan that will seek to attract high-profile international sport and major music artists to the region.
The venue, which is home to Darlington Mowden Park Rugby Club, is currently a vital part of Tees Valley’s bid to host fixtures for the Rugby League World Cup in 2021.
Mayor Ben Houchen said: “This Sports Village could be transformational for Darlington and the wider area, creating state-of-the-art sports facilities and jobs for local people.
“This could help the Tees Valley to continue to attract major events and high-profile sportsmen and women just a few years after the New Zealand All Blacks trained at the Arena during the Rugby Union World Cup in 2015.
“We’re now bidding to bring Rugby League World Cup teams to the Tees Valley at both the Arena and Middlesbrough’s Riverside stadium to play matches and to host training sessions.
“We hope this will inspire more local people to take up sports and attract more visitors to the area.”
Lee Rust, managing director of Darlington Mowden Park, added: ‘’A large amount of work has already gone into the Arena’s transition as a venue and the Darlington Sports Village concept.
“We’ve seen some fantastic progress in recent years including international sport, concerts, major events and both community and business use.
“‘There is an opportunity to build on progress made and to create something of real significance that will benefit both the town and wider region on multiple levels.
“We’re delighted to have received formal support from both Tees Valley Combined Authority and Darlington Council and we’re excited to be taking the next steps which will include confirmation of leisure and sporting partners.”
Cllr Bill Dixon, leader of Darlington Council, added: “This funding will enable us to seriously scope out what the Sport Village can be, moving from concept to full feasibility business case.
“This is an exciting development and would be an excellent addition, enhancing the Tees Valley’s sporting offer.”