OLDHAM Rugby League Club plan to upgrade Whitebank over three or four years to a stadium that will comply with minimum standards for the Championship, revealed chairman Chris Hamilton at last night’s fans’ forum.
The club would also be striving to become the hub of community life in Limehurst Village and the focal point of rugby league activity in the town.
To meet minimum standards, ground capacity would need to be increased from 1,502 to 3,000 — this to include a minimum of 500 seats — and floodlights would have to be upgraded to a lux rating of at least 300.
He said the club, in consultation with its architects, quantity surveyor, the RFL and Oldham Council, would plan to do the upgrade in stages, the first of which would be to build permanent toilet facilities and put in terracing down the Whitebank Road side of the ground.
Hopefully, this work would be completed for the start of next season, but that would depend on the timing of planning provisions and perhaps also the result of talks with the RFL’s Facilities Trust.
It was planned at a later date to put in terracing behind the posts at the bottom end of the ground; to look at covering the Whitebank Road terracing; and to install additional seating on the opposite side of the ground.
Other work that would need to be done included the levelling of surfaces around the ground; the installation of new PA and CCTV systems, new turnstiles, better shower facilities, a press box with power supply and a brick-built catering facility.
It was also proposed to improve the disabled area, car-parking surfaces and general viewing facilities as well as a continuation of improvements that had already been made to the pitch.
It was now possible to move on with stadium development thanks to the completion of legalities over ownership and security of tenure.
He said: “Oldham Council, to whom we will always be grateful, came up with the money to buy back part of the land off the Receiver —- we will pay them back over 15 years —- and the remainder of the land that was owned by a third party is now subject to a long-term lease of 125 years.
Although Whitebank, as it stood, was non-designated for safety purposes, the RFL had insisted from the outset that designated safety measures had to be implemented.
“The club’s financial position,” added the chairman, “is as strong as it has been for a number of years, and we now have a chance to really move the club forward.”
Planning fees for terracing down one side of the ground alone, however, would be in the region of £3,500 to £4,000 and the installation of a decent PA system would cost between £2,500 and £3,000.
Answering a question from Rugby Oldham, the Supporters’ Trust, Mr Hamilton said all negotiations and legalities were completed by the various parties and by Oldham RLFC, not by him personally. He had merely acted as the club’s representative.
Rugby Oldham said they would make a donation to the cost of new terracing and would be keen to help in ground development in any way they could.