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Rugby League

Wakefield still interested in stadium switch

Wakefield still aim to move into a new, purpose-built stadium despite unveiling plans to develop their current ground.

Wildcats chairman Andrew Glover last night told a fans meeting the club intend to renovate the Rapid Solicitors Stadium, formerly known as Belle Vue, to increase the covered accommodation to 10,000 and lift the overall capacity to 12,000.

The club also have plans to improve corporate hospitality and hope to attract 5,000 fans to a new membership scheme.

Wakefield chief executive James Elston said today the work is estimated to cost around £500,000 and the funding has already been committed by Glover, who brought the club out of administration in February.

Elston said the roofing could be completed within a month and work is expected to start in August, by which time the club hope to have safeguarded their place in the Engage Super League.

The Wildcats are thought to be the club most likely to make way for the elevation of Widnes Vikings when the Rugby Football League announce the remainder of the 13 licences for 2012-14 on July 26.

In addition to the club's well-documented financial problems which cost them a points deduction at the start of the season, the ground currently falls well short of the minimum standards required for Super League.

With plans for a new community stadium at Newmarket, just off the M62, being referred to a public inquiry, Wakefield recently negotiated a five-year agreement to share Barnsley's Oakwell from next season and Elston today said that remains an option.

"With Newmarket being delayed, we wanted to make sure we have covered every eventuality," he said.

"We would prefer to stay where we are but, at the end of the day, we will do whatever we need to stay in Super League and, if the Rugby League say they would rather us play at Barnsley, then that's what we'll do.

"But there is no reason why our plans to re-develop the Rapid Solicitors Stadium should not come to fruition.

"We have spoken to all the right people - Wakefield Council are fully supportive and the Rugby League have had the drawings. We've had a visit from an architect from the Rugby League and he is very happy.

"The build term is a month and it's cost effective. The funding is already in place."

The Wildcats are hoping the latest proposals will be enough to persuade the RFL's board of directors to renew their Super League licence while in the long term they remain confident of moving into their new home in 2013.

"The public inquiry into the Newmarket development won't be heard until December but we are hoping that by March 2012 we will have a definite start date," added Elston.

"We could be in the new stadium by 2013 so maybe this will be a one-season solution."

That time frame would bring Wakefield into line with neighbours Castleford, whose plans to move into their own new stadium have been put back 12 months following a decision to sell their current ground for retail development instead of housing.

With both St Helens and Salford on course to move into new stadia by the start of next season and the other vulnerable club, Crusaders, viewed as a special case because of their geographical location, the final decision on which club is demoted to the Championship for 2012 is likely to down to a straight choice between Wakefield and Castleford.

"There are people in rugby league who would like to go to 15 teams in Super League but the reality is there is not enough money to go round so we've got to get on with it and hope we can provide one of the best 14 licence applications," said Elston.

"If not, then we can't be accused of not doing everything possible to ensure we stay in Super League. We have left no stone unturned in our efforts.

"We are making a profit, our crowds are up and so are our retail sales. There is no part of the club that is not moving forward."