Resolving the ongoing trust issues between Halifax's two major sporting teams could hold the key in developing the Shay Stadium.
Calderdale’s major sports arena has potential but private partners will undoubtedly need to be involved to fully realise it, councillors heard.
Particularly crucial will be the town’s football and rugby league clubs, FC Halifax Town and Halifax Rugby League Football Club, working together with Director for Public Services Zohrah Zancudi’s report to Calderdale Council’s Place Scrutiny Panel concluding: “The next stage of development could depend on the success of both clubs.
“We need to look at how we can support and enable the clubs to be more successful.
“We need to work closely with both clubs to increase revenue to allow investment,” she said.
The council’s Sports Services Manager Gary Byrnes going forward the two clubs needed to work together with the council but there had been issues of trust between them.
Coun Amanda Parsons-Hulse (Lib Dem, Warley) asked what was being done about trust issues and Mr Byrnes said that with a new board coming in at the rugby league club he was hopeful of a more united front moving ahead.
At the meeting Mr Byrnes explained to councillors that the authority had had to spend money year-on-year in the 11 years since it took the stadium back under its control from the Shay Stadium Trust to keep it maintained to the standard required.
The council’s relationships with both clubs were good but there were issues, Mr Byrnes told the board.
“There are still financial issues in the professional sport level both clubs play in,” he said.
As a designated sports ground it needed to be retained at a higher level than the teams currently played at and the clubs could not afford to pay what it cost to run the stadium. The council was working with them on a way forward, the board heard.
The stadium, at Shay Syke, Halifax, faces challenges although there is confidence operating losses can be reduced to zero by the end of this financial year, 2019-20.
The Shay Stadium accounts show a projected operating deficit of £214,035 for 2018-19 – the report was compiled towards the end of the last financial year.
But with around 80 council staff based in office space at the Shay, which also houses training rooms, and finding alternative accommodation costing the council an estimated £170,000, the deficit is reduced to an operating loss of around £44,000.
The expectation is this can be eradicated in the next 12 months.
Challenges for developing the stadium – probably the biggest building the council owns – include the future of the stadium’s Annexe, development of its West Stand and development of an all weather 5×5 pitch.
Mr Byrnes said the Annexe, in which there was currently no interest from potential buyers, was likely to remain mothballed as, according to the report, it would cost £70,000 to remove it.
In terms of the West Stand it is reaching the end of its life without investment but has previously been subject to interest in developing it and the Annexe as a hotel.
Progress did not go further but councillors heard if demand existed for another hotel in Halifax the council’s asset management team could look into the possibility with a development company.
Developing a 5×5 pitch would involve removing turnstiles and the Annexe to create space so the best and most cost effective place for one might be the proposed new leisure facility pencilled in for the existing North Bridge Leisure Centre site, said the briefing paper to councillors.
Coun Roger Taylor (Con, Northowram and Shelf), who said he had been going to the Shay since his father first took him as a boy, and Coun Helen Rivron (Lab, Ovenden) asked questions about the West Stand.
Coun Taylor asked what the problem was with it as he understood it was an ex-Manchester City stand.
Mr Byrnes said it had come from City’s former ground at Maine Road and was safe at the moment but needed investment of £6,000 for emergency lighting.
Rather than committing that finance the council decided to only use it for daytime and evening events where lighting was not needed and it would continue to be used where possible.
With both clubs averaging gates of under 2,000, the ground could be utilised without it.
Coun Rivron said she recalled some years ago the West Stand was going to be taken out of use.
“We don’t want to get back to that situation – we don’t want to see nothing being done about it and it being neglected,” she said. She and Coun Dave Young (Lab, Calder) both asked about sponsorship opportunities.
Grant opportunities for sports development were also being explored.
Coun Jenny Lynn (Lab, Town) said it was also important to note the number of community groups which used the Shay Stadium.
The board heard the Young At Heart Club, Halifax Rotary Club, Andy’s Man Club, Lee Ashforth Community Football, Release Potential, Ascenti Physio and Halifax Rugby Union Club all used the stadium in some capacity in addition to the council’s staff from its Children’s and Adults Services teams.
Coun Taylor supported the point: “It’s not just a sports arena,” he said.