Bath Rugby owner Bruce Craig: New Rec to rival best in the world
Bath Rugby owner Bruce Craig says the club’s new arena will be “world-class” and “well worth waiting for”.
The club is still confident that it will be able to transform its cramped and outdated ground at The Rec by the year 2015.
And it has put a brave face on the legal hurdles that still need to be cleared before work can start on a new home with a maximum capacity of around 18,000.
Mr Craig, who bought the club three years ago, is keen to create a “legacy” arena which will dramatically improve the city centre riverside.
But he and chief executive Nick Blofeld are having to pace themselves because of the Rec’s sensitive charitable status.
The Charity Commission will rule in April whether a lease swap involving the club’s one-time training ground at Lambridge coming under public ownership is more than adequate compensation for Bath Rugby being given a larger slice of The Rec.
Meanwhile, Bathwick resident Jack Sparrow has applied for The Rec to be declared an official town green in a move that could also put back the date on which the club can finally submit a planning application for a new arena.
The final hurdle to cross is a 1922 deed covenant covering the Rec, which set out restrictions on development there. Although Bath Rugby’s legal advisers are confident these stipulations are no longer legally enforceable, the club will need to get a High Court ruling to this effect.
Speaking exclusively to the Chronicle, Mr Craig said: “The current rugby ground, especially the West Stand by the river, does not do justice to the city or the rugby club and we are really keen to improve it for everyone. We want to provide a world-class facility and buildings that the city and club can be proud of, are appropriate and add to the beauty and splendour of Bath. It is a tough challenge but it is critical that we get it right.
“What we do needs to complement this unique and historic setting, and is for everyone in Bath, both now and for future generations. It is not only for players and supporters as it needs to work for the whole community and our own Bath Rugby Foundation. This is a project close to my heart and one I personally want to see come to fruition for the benefit of all.
“The Rec and the club have both been important parts of the city and the wider community for years, and we want to maintain and enhance that, always recognising it is an open space for all to enjoy.”
Mr Blofeld added: “There is a strategy and a process in place and we are making good progress against that, but we have to do things in a sequential way, we have to tick the boxes as we go along to make sure everything is watertight. We don’t want to take anything for granted.
“We are very grateful to everyone for their continuing support and patience.”
Mr Blofeld said there would be a detailed consultation exercise and public exhibition once more detailed plans had been finalised.
“This is about the city of Bath as well as the club. It’s about consultation, it’s not about imposing things. This is not going to be some massive, closed-off stadium, but a great facility for the whole community. Our focus will be on transforming that part of the city, even creating new views back to the abbey and Pulteney Bridge.
“We are not going to be cutting corners.”