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The Wrexham Gateway Project – Update

The Raceourse Wrexham

Nearly two years ago, I wrote on here about the Wrexham Gateway project, its key stakeholders The Welsh Government, Glyndwr University, Wrexham County Borough Council and Wrexham Association Football Club and its prospects of actual delivery.


News this week about the requested required extra funding from the Governments notorious ‘Levelling Up’ exercise being turned down for the second time comes as no real surprise to the inhabitants of Wrexham as it appears to be a very strong statement by the Tories that they will reward an area that actually votes for it, while denying funding to areas where electoral success will not be theirs. Wrexham’s inhabitants, who voted for a Tory MP last time round based apparently mainly on the ‘misleading’ Brexit information supplied have made it very clear that this mistake will not happen again, and it does appear that the area has suffered because of that. I have no doubt that the decision not to give funds to Wrexham had already been made, but they’ve just delayed releasing the information to concerned parties as long as they can.


In essence, the Wrexham Gateway project is around £60 million short of the amount required to complete the whole project. With Welsh Government already committing £25 million to the project, which has enabled purchase and clearance of a large swathe of ground, the visible footprint of the development is there, added to with the recent demolition of the Kop stand at the Racecourse.


So where does this leave us? Strangely, it has been the Football Club that has been first to speak up and set out a stance, with a statement that ‘Plan B’ will now come in to action. What Plan B actually consists of is open to speculation at this moment and will undoubtedly be revealed over the coming weeks, I have no doubt the Kop will be built, but in what timescale, what form, and financed by who is unclear at the moment.


The problem now is what happens to the Gateway group and hence the development if any one of the concerned parties decide to go their own way? As Glyndwr still own the land at the back of the Kop and showed chagrin when the plans for the new Kop were approved as it affected their own plans for another block of student accommodation on that space, they could, and within reason, now press ahead with that build subject to planning permission and make the building of the Kop in the proposed form difficult, if not impossible. Welsh Government also own the old Dickens garage plot of land, so basically, the ground could now become landlocked.


If Plan B cited by the Club is the build of the new Kop stand, without agreements with the footprint landowners, the stand will be of a reduced size, with only the original footprint of the former Kop stand immediately available to them, and access to the site for construction purposed limited to the goodwill of the owners of the Turf.


Raising money for a new stand is another issue. I have no doubt the Club owners will employ an expert in such matters to do this, and I have no worries in that direction, it’s just how fast they can raise the money. The Club owners don’t have bottomless pockets, and they have done well funding the Club so far, but they may not want their money tied up in real estate that may not be returned to them until the Club gets sold on at some point in what I hope is the far future. So maybe a way of quickly raising collateral would be to remortgage the Racecourse, and pay that back off over time, which would explain why the Club came out chasing the WST to collapse the lease this week, they would need that out of the way to smooth the process.


For those not aware, when Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney took the Club over, the property owning structure was different, with Glyndwr University owning the Racecourse, and WST Assets Limited, a sub-company of Wrexham Supporters Trust (who previously owned the Football Club) owning a 99-year lease on the ground. Subsequently, R & R purchased both the Club and the Freehold of the Racecourse, but still had to pay ‘rent’ to WST Assets Limited, for the Club to play at the ground the Football Club owners actually own!


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In my opinion, I think the best way forward would be to bring in a new investor, not just a sponsor, to cover not only the new stand construction, but the purchase of the two plots of land adjacent to Crispin Lane, which, apart from facilitating the original plan for the new stand to go ahead, would also allow the Club expansion room for Club offices, retail and match day catering facilities, such as the provision of a Fans Zone. With the panic not so long back by a lot of fans with the news that Ryan Reynolds was getting involved in the Ottawa Senators Canadian hockey club, my own take on this was that maybe it was a move to involve some very heavy rollers in his own project over here and bring them on board. In fact, a Tweet I put out suggesting that was ‘liked’ by Ryan himself, so maybe there is some traction in this thought.


Although the funding news comes as less of a shock, I still believe we will get there in the end. I would like the club and their partners to put out an indication of what direction we’re heading in so we can all get back to concentrating on the excellent football team we have!

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