£50million bid to create new stadium and skills centre for Rugby League in West Yorkshire is revealed

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A £50m bid to create a new stadium and ‘powerhouse for rugby league’ in West Yorkshire has been submitted to the Government.

Bradford’s Odsal Stadium could become the biggest permanently covered stadium in the country if a funding bid to transform the site is approved.

The £50m bid to refurbish the home of the Bradford Bulls, as well as creating a new Rugby league skills centre, park and ride car park, sports pitches, hotel and solar farm has been described as a “once in a generation opportunity to break the cycle of poverty” in the area.

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As well as once again making Bradford a rugby powerhouse, the bid says the stadium will allow the city to host huge music and cultural events, as well as hosting other sports like boxing.

Major plans to transform Odsal Stadium could see a new powerhouse for rugby league created in West YorkshireMajor plans to transform Odsal Stadium could see a new powerhouse for rugby league created in West Yorkshire
Major plans to transform Odsal Stadium could see a new powerhouse for rugby league created in West Yorkshire

Councils across the country have been invited to bid for up to £50m to the Government’s Levelling Up Fund. Each Constituency can bid cash towards a £20m project, but there are also two potential £50m awards for projects drawn up by partnerships between the public and private sector.

Announced today, the proposals will create a regional skills centre for Rugby League for Yorkshire and the North East of England, part of a world-class training centre for elite sports in Odsal for mens, womens and wheelchair Rugby League – if the funding bid is successful.

The refurbished stadium would also host major music, entertainment and cultural events and could host international men’s, women’s or youth matches, significant domestic matches rugby league matches.

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Artist’s impressions of the proposal show that the neighbouring Richard Dunn site, a former council-run leisure centre and swimming pool, would be part of the development.

Plans of how the new Rugby League complex at Odsal, Bradford, could lookPlans of how the new Rugby League complex at Odsal, Bradford, could look
Plans of how the new Rugby League complex at Odsal, Bradford, could look

The former sports centre, which was given a Grade II listing by Historic England earlier this year, is conspicuous by its absence in the plans.

A Council spokesman added: “Analysis shows the new complex would attract more than 1.25 million visitors a year and lead to £625 million visitor spend and more than £1bn of socio-economic benefits for Bradford district.

“The plans would lead to the delivery of a world-class training complex for elite sports in Odsal accompanied by a Skills, Training and Education Centre for Rugby League and a new 25,000-capacity home for the Bradford Bulls, which could host international matches and significant domestic matches such as the semi-finals of The Betfred Challenge Cup.”

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The scheme has been announced with just weeks to go until the start of the Rugby League World Cup.

The new look Odsal stadium at Bradford could be used for concertsThe new look Odsal stadium at Bradford could be used for concerts
The new look Odsal stadium at Bradford could be used for concerts

The new skills and training facility will be built in conjunction with the Rugby Football League as part of its national OuRLeague Life programme. It would be shared by elite players, match officials, and young people and adults from across Yorkshire and the North East. It would complement a similar project planned in Manchester.

The Council announcement added: “As the largest permanently roofed stadium in England the new venue in Odsal would also become home to other nationally significant sporting such as boxing and enable the city to become a home for major music, entertainment and cultural performances, capitalising on the legacy which will be left by Bradford’s successful bid to become UK City of Culture in 2025.”

The complex would include a multi-storey car-park, complete with rooftop sports pitches. The car-park would be linked to a park and ride that is expected to be completed in late 2024.

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The redevelopment will also lead to the creation of a new 105-bedroom hotel and five new sports pitches for rugby and football, the improvement of two existing community sports pitches and a 55,000 square metre solar farm that would power the site.

The stadium and sports complex would also create 480 full time jobs over a decade.

The new stadium, and wider complex, would become home to Bradford Bulls and be built on the current Odsal stadium site, which was erected in the 1930s to rival Wembley as a national home of Rugby League.

Odsal stadium still holds the record for attendance for a rugby match in the UK, with more than 102,000 officially attending the 1954 Rugby League Challenge Cup final replay, involving neighbours Halifax RLFC, and an estimated audience of more than 120,000.

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The Council announcement adds: “The council believes a new centre of excellence for Rugby League provides a once in a generation opportunity to break the cycle of poverty by investing in the future of this community and creating an outstanding venue that the whole district can be proud of and benefit from.

Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe, Leader of Bradford Council, said: “Independent analysis has shown that Bradford is the country’s number one levelling up opportunity and these ambitious plans build on our long-term strategy to harness the power of sport and culture to level up our great city district and drive economic growth.

“Rugby League was created to help level up the north of England by enabling working class players to be compensated for taking time off work to play rugby.

“Rugby League is woven into the fabric of Bradford and the north of England. By building a regional skills centre and the largest permanently covered stadium in the country, we can harness the power of Rugby League to level up again by creating well-paid careers and jobs for thousands of young men and women in Bradford and across Yorkshire and the North East.

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“Bradford can create a home for Rugby League which reflects the status of both the sport and the city, and which will generate almost £1bn in economic benefits for the people of Bradford over a decade. We are committed to working with the RFL to deliver a sport and training facility which provides skills and generates job opportunities for young people in Bradford and beyond.”

Tony Sutton, Chief Operating Officer at the Rugby Football League, said: “The entire reason our game began was to level up opportunities for people in the north by compensating them for playing the sport they love.

“Rugby League is more than just a game – it creates opportunity, much needed employment and brings real social, economic and health benefits to communities. Rugby League can again help to level up by creating jobs and opportunities for people across the north. What we need Government help with is creating grass roots opportunities for people to play the game and build their careers.

“Bradford has a rich history in Rugby League as home to former Super League and World Club champions and an iconic stadium which delivered our sport’s largest ever attendance. This world-class complex would put Britain’s sixth-largest city back at the heart of British sport.

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“The skills, educational and training centre would be a focal point for education – allowing youngsters to work side-by-side with national team squads and match officials, helping to drive up aspiration and achievement in Bradford and across Yorkshire and the North East.”

Bradford Bulls chairman, Nigel Wood OBE, said: “We are extremely impressed by and applaud the scale of the ambition for Odsal Stadium and its immediate surroundings, conceived by our civic leaders and the RFL.

“It is to be particularly welcomed and commended that there is a very strong educational and training dimension to the scheme, an aspect with fits perfectly into our club’s aspiration to be a good corporate citizen, providing training, skills, welfare, opportunity and employment for our community beyond simply being a great rugby league social enterprise.”

Judith Cummins, Labour MP for Bradford South and Chair of the All Party Rugby League Group in parliament, said: “I have always been vocal in my belief that sport is one of Bradford’s greatest cultural assets and I have seen first-hand how sport changes lives and unites people.

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“The people of Bradford are passionate about sport and Rugby League so this represents a major opportunity for the city. The ambitious plans that I have been shown will bring increased prosperity, skills, and job opportunities through regeneration of this vital part of south Bradford.”

It has not yet been announced when the succesful bids will be announced by the Government