WORK to produce Wasps’ £2million training ground at Henley Sports Centre is one step closer.
The rugby giant has appointed Stockton-based construction firm Wigley Building & Development to carry out ‘extensive renovations’ of the 13-acre site.
It will include turning an artificial pitch into a 3G surface, creating a new training pitch and turning a former storage area into a full size training pitch.
Internal works to the Stratford Road building will see a purpose-built gym created, offices, media centre and medical complex.
The premiership club will now press ahead with plans to relocate from its temporary training base at Broadstreet Rugby Club in Coventry. Wasps moved to the base after shutting out tenants Coventry City Football Club amid a legal dispute.
Wasps chief executive Stephen Vaughan said: “We are really excited to see The Wigley Group starting work on a home for our men’s first team and academy.
“It has been the missing part of the jigsaw for us and we believe it will help accelerate our plans to build a team which is consistently pushing for honours at the top end of the game.
“When completed, it will be one of the finest training complexes in English rugby and we are very much looking forward to this new chapter.
“Our move to Coventry and Warwickshire was a massive step for the club. In a relatively short space of time we have established ourselves in the area, attracting some of the largest attendances in English rugby, have established a successful Wasps netball side and an award-winning community programme, which we are keen to develop in our new location.
“We have been really grateful to Broadstreet for hosting us for the past six years and naturally we have formed a very close bond with the club, but all the players are very excited about moving to a permanent and cutting-edge training centre which we can call home.”
Planning permission for Wasps was granted by Stratford District Council amid fierce opposition from a number of communities and groups based at the centre including ten football clubs, a school, college, disabled basketball team and other groups.
The application which emerged last year triggered a petition with nearly 3,000 objectors. The council also received more than 700 letters of objection and 11 letters of support.
Campaign group Henley Sports Centre Alliance hoped to take over running the site as a Community Interest Company, and run the centre for community use.
A spokesman for the Alliance said: “With planning permission being given partly to the promise of millions of pounds worth of investment in the local economy, it is disappointing Wasps have yet again chosen to ignore the local construction businesses closer to their project. This might be great for some company closer to Rugby than Henley, but yet again it is not great for Henley, nor the 1,500 people who used the facility every week. Many of these users have been unable to find alternatives locations, and this will remain true once lockdown restrictions are lifted.
“As far as we are concerned they are still not welcome in Henley.”