Basketball: Leicester Riders 'will deliver' their new £2.5m home
Leicester Riders are confident of moving to a new £2.5million home next season.
Designs have been unveiled for a 2,000-seat arena as part of a link-up between Riders, Leicestershire County Cricket Club and Leicester College.
The stadium would be located next to the current indoor school at Grace Road, and would become the new permanent home of the BBL Cup champions.
The lease on their current 'home', the John Sanford Centre at De Montfort University, ends at the end of the season, leaving them effectively homeless.
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A bid of £1m has been made to Sport England for part of their £10m iconic facilities fund, and is currently being assessed.
Riders director Kevin Routledge said it is crucial that the arena is built.
"This venue is an absolute must for us, so we are determined to make sure it happens," he said.
"We are going to deliver this venue, there are no ifs or buts about it, we will be building this venue here at Grace Road this year. We have to deliver it, it is crucial for the future of Leicester Riders."
But Routledge admitted there were many other bids from different parts of the country, so there is no guarantee they will be successful.
"We have to win this bid or else we have to find the money somewhere else," he said. "But we have Plan Bs, and Plan Cs and Plan Ds.
"Plan A is that we get the iconic fund bid, but if that doesn't happen, we will have other strands to follow up.
"We are hoping to make an announcement about a second funding source within the next two weeks. We have already told Sport England that we may be in a position to reduce our demand.
"There are no guarantees in life, but we feel, against the criteria Sport England have, we meet them all in spades."
Even if the bid is accepted, Routledge admitted it would not be ready in time for September, when the next season starts.
"I think the most optimistic estimate would be around this time next year," he said.
"I don't think we can do it any quicker than that as we've still got planning permission to go through.
"We recognise that we will need the support of the BBL in the way scheduling is done for next season.
"Four or five years ago, Milton Keynes were in a similar situation and they were allowed to move around their fixtures, play away from home, and it worked out.
"We have a great relationship with Loughborough University and we know for one-off games we can go to their David Wallace building."
The proposed arena at Grace Road will not just be used as Riders' home though as, for more than 80 per cent of the time, it will be used by the students of Leicester College and the community.
"Although this is essential to Riders, this is much more than Riders," said Routledge.
"We said after the Olympics, 'Inspire a Generation', but you can't do that if you say 'well, we would love you to play sport but there's nowhere to go'.
"This is legacy. This is as clear a demonstration of legacy as there can possibly be."
It was also revealed that Leicester City Council had released the covenant they had on Grace Road which greatly restricted the cricket club's ability to develop the ground.
County chief executive Mike Siddall said it was "fantastic" to be in partnership with Riders.
"They are the best basketball side in Britain at the moment and they will be on our ground – that's just superb," he said. "It's great to have them on board.
"It is very important for the sustainability of the cricket club, as it will give people the opportunity to use these facilities 12 months a year."
Leicester College said it was great to be in partnership with County and Riders.
"It will help enhance the sports facilities that we currently have available to support our students," said deputy principal Don Brooks.
"Also, it will open the door to potential work experience and apprenticeship opportunities."
MP for Leicester South, Jon Ashworth, who officially viewed the plans last week, said it is a very exciting project.
"It's good that this is a project which involves younger people, and linking up with the cricket club and Riders is very exciting," he said.
"It will bring money and jobs into this area, so it seems a good idea to me."