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Tuesday, 25 November 2014

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World cup dream in motion

ALL the stops are being pulled out to make sure that Copeland’s new community sports stadium is ready in time for the Rugby League World Cup next year.

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WORKING TOGETHER: Whitehaven and Workington Rugby League clubs and Copeland and Allerdale councils pictured last April as they launched their joint bid to participate in the 2013 RL World Cup. Inset, Copeland Borough Council chief executive Paul Walker MIKE McKENZIE REF: 50018411W001

News that Copeland had been successful in the local authority’s bid as a World Cup venue was described as a “fantastic boost for the area” – but it proved even better than hoped.

For the £5.5m sports stadium – the lion’s share of funding is coming through Britain’s Energy Coast via Nuclear Management Partners – has been selected to stage not one but two prestigious World Cup fixtures.

It’s predicted that the whole of Copeland and also the wider area will benefit from “a unique opportunity, provide a great showcase for what West Cumbria has to offer and a fantastic cultural exchange opportunity.”

Copeland Council leader Elaine Woodburn said: “It will bring real benefits. There has been an outstanding community aspect to our bid.”

Borough mayor John Jackson, a former Egremont rugby union Cumberland Cup-winner, and a rugby league supporter, said: “Local businesses and tourist attractions will benefit from the worldwide coverage. We aim to showcase our hidden gems.”

This was underlined by West Cumbria’s tourism manager Katie Read.

Enthused Katie: “I couldn’t be prouder that the Western Lake District’s heritage has been recognised in this way.

“It will raise awareness of the area both at home and in particular countries like the USA and Australia.

“The potential for West Cumbria is immense and is a great way to showcase the warmth of our welcome and show off what we have to offer in world class adventure, food, culture and simply stunning scenery. Spectators and players won’t know what’s hit them.”

Copeland Council’s chief executive Paul Walker predicts a huge economic benefit for B&B accommodation and also for local hotels in the borough as fans flock to the big games.

Allerdale will also benefit as the international team playing both matches at Whitehaven will stay in Workington which has underlined the need for a new luxury hotel in Copeland.

Paul Walker says: “I understand accommodation for the ‘home’ team will be provided in Allerdale as part of the West Cumbrian approach. However, we have been working hard to secure hotel facilities in Copeland for the two away teams. We know spectators will come to the events and are going to fill up local bed and breakfast accommodation and also want local hotels. As they will want to be close to where the action is we should see a huge economic benefit.”

Copeland Council’s porfolio holder Hugh Branney was also excited by the news.

“The competition coming to Copeland will mean amateur clubs seeing coaches develop, young people’s leadership skills will improve and participation in sport will rise.

“Having a major international sporting event on your doorstep doesn’t happen too often and we want to thank the community for backing our bed and making it a reality.”

To support its successful bid, Copeland council stressed the area’s tourism offer proclaiming it as “unparalleled featuring glorious coastline, breathtaking fells and unique lakes showcasing hidden gems to the world.”

Events and festivals are to be staged around the match days enabling theatres, restaurants and tourism destinations to reap the rewards.

The matches will be staged in the autumn of 2013.

Paul Walker says the stadium will be built 10 months before then.

A developer will be chosen soon following the tendering process and it’s hoped a start can be made on the stadium in early spring.

Mr Walker enthused: “It’s an absolutely fantastic achievement realising the ambitions we have to bring world class rugby league to Copeland and West Cumbria as a whole.”

Britain’s Energy Coast’s contribution to the stadium build will be £4.4m with the balance likely to come from Copeland Community Fund.

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