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Tranmere Rovers buoyed by resumption of new stadium talks

Tranmere Rovers has today (Wednesday) welcomed news that a proposed new stadium project for the English League Two football club could be resurrected.

The ‘Sports City’ project, anchored by a 15,000-seat stadium for the Merseyside club, is set to be the subject of a Wirral Council meeting on June 13, where an offer of a £100,000 (€116,800/$125,300) grant from the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority (LCRCA) for a feasibility study will be debated.

Located at the site of the former Bidston Dock in Birkenhead, the wider £100m Sports City complex could include a digital golf driving range and food and drink outlets, with the new stadium being designed for potential expansion to accommodate 25,000 fans.

Tranmere initially confirmed discussions about the possibility of building a new stadium back in August 2019. Vice-chairman Nicola Palios said it was looking into potential plans for a new home ground, adding it would be a “massive and complicated project” for the club, which has been based at 16,500-capacity Prenton Park (pictured) for more than a century.

The onset of COVID-19 ultimately put these ambitions on the back-burner, but they have now returned to the agenda, according to a Wirral Council document reported by the Liverpool Echo newspaper ahead of next week’s meeting.

In the paper, the Council states its belief that the project will be “a major catalyst to the Wirral Waters programme”, a plan for up to 13,000 homes on the Birkenhead docklands over the next 25 years.

The document added: “If the project were able to proceed it would not only help to safeguard the future of Tranmere Rovers FC as an important ‘community asset’ but also to contribute to enhanced health and leisure provision as well as increased employment and long-term economic growth.”

The Council continued: “Over recent years TRFC (Tranmere Rovers Football Club) has established a reputation as a model for a professional football club. This has seen significant investment in its asset base including new training facilities at the Solar Campus in Leasowe.

“In order to achieve a self-sustainable Championship club, TRFC considers that it is necessary to replace its ageing stadium at Prenton Park and move to a modern facility.”

The new Sports City scheme is said to be wider in scope than the one originally envisioned. The feasibility study would cost £200,000 to complete and with the LCRCA’s offer, Wirral Council would need to provide the other £100,000 through its capital funding.

The Council document said that Tranmere, which owns Prenton Park, its home since 1912, is not able to contribute to the feasibility study at this time due to financial pressures caused by COVID-19. However, it has pledged to pay £50,000 of the Council’s cost, should the project get the green light.

Concerning the overall project, the Council said: “The potential sources of funding include a future sale of Prenton Park, private investment opportunities in TRFC, private sector investment from those companies who will occupy the site, and regeneration grants. The funding sources will be considered further in the feasibility study.”

The feasibility study is set to be completed by December. Tranmere chairman, Mark Palios, said in a statement today: “From the club’s perspective, if the feasibility study is approved it will determine whether or not a stadium move will help to establish TRFC as a self-sustainable Championship club.

“Once the outcome of the study is known we shall enter into a period of consultation with the fan base.”

Image: Tranmere Rovers