Could St Helens Town football club return to borough as part of Ruskin Drive masterplan? (From St Helens Star)
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Could St Helens Town football club return to borough as part of Ruskin Drive masterplan?
ST HELENS Town football club could return to the borough if plans for the multi-million pound transformation of an ageing sports ground take off.
A masterplan to regenerate the Ruskin Drive site was drawn up by architects last year on the orders of St Helens Council leader Marie Rimmer.
The local authority took over the management of the sports fields from Pilkington subsidiary Ruskin Leisure in 2010, though the clubhouse and gym are owned by a private company.
It is understood the bold vision would see new pitches and changing rooms created for existing amateur and junior sports clubs on a vastly remodelled site at Dentons Green.
However, the Star has learned that bringing Town back to St Helens also forms part of the plans, which would be financed largely by sports grants and a considerable compensatory package from housebuilders who want to develop the former City Road playing fields.
A high specification artificial pitch, with a stand for supporters on one side – to meet Football Association standards – is a central part of the blueprints.
Town have played at Ashton Town’s Edge Street ground in Ashton-in-Makerfield since leaving Saints’ former Knowsley Road ground several years ago.
Under a deal that saw the sale of their Hoghton Road ground in Sutton and the formation of Sporting Club St Helens, it had been suggested Town would relocate to Langtree Park following the stadium’s completion.
However, that fell through, with Town’s inability to meet the operating costs set by Saints for running the stadium on matchdays, believed to be the reason for the failure.
A base at Ruskin would bring Town near to their junior club, which is using Windleshaw Road.
Turning the Ruskin masterplan into reality remains a long journey though and planning permission would have to be secured.
However, there is a strong commitment to the regeneration of the site from council leaders.
At the latest cabinet meeting it was agreed that a further £70,000 would be invested into project managing the development.
Last year £100,000 was set aside for feasibility study into the plans, which were discussed in private by the cabinet in January.
Officials from clubs who are tenants of the ground, including the likes of Ruskin RUFC, Pilkington Recs RL, Ruskin FC and St Helens Town Cricket, attended a briefing with senior council officers last month, and it is likely a number of issues will have to be finalised before blueprints go to planning.