Castleford Tigers and Highgrove Group have confirmed that planning applications have been submitted for a major upgrade to the Super League club’s Wheldon Road stadium, along with an associated scheme for a “significant new employment development”.
If planning is approved by Wakefield Council, the circa £200m (€228.7m/$242.7m) Axiom Yorkshire proposals will provide £12.2m of funding towards the work at Wheldon Road, commonly known as The Jungle, and £15m of highways improvements to the Axiom site, which includes new employment, logistics and manufacturing floorspace, creating jobs for local people.
Once fully developed, the Axiom site intends to deliver around 1,830 permanent full-time jobs in Castleford, with a further 365 jobs created within the Wakefield Council area. Approximately 1,500 construction jobs will be created per year during the works at both Wheldon Road and the Axiom employment site. It is anticipated that the Axiom proposals will generate around £142m of local economic activity, once fully operational.
The Axiom site currently has planning approval for around 70,000 square metres of retail, leisure and stadium space, which is unlikely to be built out in the short to medium term. If the latest plans are approved, the new employment development would replace the approved stadium, retail and leisure development.
In November 2021, the Tigers pivoted away from plans to develop a new stadium in favour of redeveloping its historic Wheldon Road home. The Tigers confirmed that they were in discussions with Wakefield Council and Highgrove, the owners of the proposed new stadium site at Junction 32 of the M62 motorway near Glasshoughton, about the possibility of staying at a revamped Wheldon Road rather than relocating.
The decision came after Wakefield Council announced its intention to give up to £2m to the Tigers as part of a new Rugby League Resilience Fund to invest in their current stadium and improve community use.
In April, the Tigers confirmed infrastructure and financial details for the Wheldon Road plans. Proposed improvements to the stadium, which opened in 1926, will mean that the club can meet Super League standards. A new all-seater main stand will be constructed, providing modern sporting facilities for players and officials, along with a banqueting suite and corporate hospitality function rooms.
Refurbishment of Wheldon Road, Princess Street and Railway End stands are also proposed, along with the provision of a new floodlit 4G training pitch. Upgraded facilities at Wheldon Road will deliver major improvements including new catering facilities and toilets. Improved accessibility and much enhanced viewing areas aim to transform the matchday experience for fans with disabilities.
Funds raised by the proposed new Axiom employment development would supplement Wakefield Council’s £2m grant to Castleford Tigers via their Rugby League Resilience Fund.
Mark Grattan, Castleford Tigers managing director, said: “This is a really important moment for the club and the town more widely. If both planning applications are approved, the money raised will secure the future of Castleford Tigers at Wheldon Road for a generation, at an important time for rugby league, with Super League considering a move to a grading system.
“The quality of our home is critical to our future sporting success, and these plans provide an upgrade to player training and medical facilities. Improving the matchday experience for all fans is of course our priority, but the significantly improved banqueting and hospitality facilities enable us to increase matchday revenue and generate income throughout the week, which in turn benefits the club’s finances.”