Newlands facing uncertain future amid Investec reports

Cape Town’s Newlands Stadium, one of the world’s most historic rugby union venues, is poised to be demolished and redeveloped as residential and retail property, according to multiple reports.

The news was first reported late last week and the sport24 website has now confirmed that the owner of the stadium, Western Province Rugby Football Union (WPRFU), has entered into an agreement with Investec that will see the banking and asset management group granted development rights to Newlands from 2021.

Investec has reportedly agreed to a 99-year lease on the venue, with an immediate payment of R110m (£5.9m/€6.6m/$7.25m) due to the WPRFU. Sport24 said R52m of this payment will go to Stellenbosch-based investment holding company Remgro to settle the Union’s debt with the firm which came to its aid in 2016 with a loan to stave off the threat of bankruptcy. The remaining R58m will be used by the WPRFU as working capital.

Investec will reportedly seek to transform the Newlands site into residential and retail development, with the WPRFU to benefit from a 5% share in any profits derived from this plan, plus a further 3.5% share from the resale of any units developed. This plan would need the green light from the City of Cape Town.

With a current capacity of around 52,000, Newlands first opened in 1888 and staged its first official rugby match in 1890. It is currently the home of Super Rugby franchise the Stormers and domestic team Western Province, along with being a regular venue for national team games.

If the Investec plan for Newlands goes ahead the venue’s rugby fixtures are expected to switch to Cape Town Stadium. The 55,000-seat city-owned venue was developed for South Africa’s staging of football’s 2010 FIFA World Cup, but has since proved to be a ‘white elephant’ for the City of Cape Town.

Contacted by the SARugbyMag website on the reports surrounding the future of South Africa’s oldest rugby venue, a WPRFU spokesperson said that there would be “no statement or comment at this time”.

Image: Stormers