St Helens chief says new stadium will secure club's future
St Helens' new 30million stadium will guarantee a rosy future for the Stobart Super League club says chairman Eamonn McManus.
The 18,000-capacity Langtree Park replaces the century-old 17,500-capacity Knowsley Road, which had become a millstone around the club's neck by the time it was demolished last year to make way for housing.
McManus, a retired investment banker and lifelong Saints fan who has personally driven the move for a new ground, thinks the club is now in a position to become self-sufficient through its pristine spectator and corporate facilities.
New: Langtree Park will safeguard the future of St Helens
'It's not just a great stadium, it's guaranteed the life for St Helens – its traditions and its values – for generations to come,' said McManus, who today conducted a guided stadium tour for the media.
'At Knowsley Road we generated nothing, there was literally nothing. The expense of running it was much greater than the revenue.
'It's been a sea change. We've already got bookings for the next six months.'
McManus used his connections in the banking industry to ensure the stadium development has not left the club in debt.
'It is 100% owned by the club, with no bank debts, which is quite an achievement,' he said.
'The stadium is high quality in every regard and quite unique in its design. It's got the feel of a substantial stadium but will also maintain an intimate but passionate rugby league atmosphere.
'I financially invested in the club 12 years ago on the back of architectural plans for a new stadium, which I thought would take two or three years to ensue.
Old: The old ground, Knowsley Road, had become a burden
'Now it's all done and dusted, it's something you can look back and feel genuinely proud of. I feel 10 feet tall when I come into this place.'
St Helens will have sole use of Langtree Park, which has already been named as a World Cup venue in 2013, but McManus is hoping it can be put to further use.
'If there is a better rugby league stadium, can someone please point it out to me,' he said. 'It certainly lends itself to Challenge Cup semi-finals and more.
'We'll give it a year to bed down before we look at the possibility of staging pop concerts and boxing matches.'
Saints were tenants at the Stobart Stadium, home of the Widnes Vikings, for 2011 and coach Royce Simmons is delighted to have some home comforts.
'The hairs on the back of your neck stand up when you walk around and see the pictures of the old players,” he told a news conference at the stadium.
None: Knowsley Road generated no income
'You know you've come to a rugby league ground. You're not sharing a ground and I think that's why it's so special.'
The club listened to the views of fans in providing standing areas for 7,000 spectators, in addition to 11,000 seats.
Langtree Park will host its first Super League match on Friday week but before then St Helens kick off the new season at London Broncos on Saturday.
Last year's Grand Final runners-up will definitely be without England centre Michael Shenton, who is still recovering from a dislocated elbow, and forward Tony Puletua and have a major doubt over full-back Paul Wellens, the new captain who is striving to overcome an Achilles injury.
'Tony and Michael won't come into contention for this week,' said Simmons.
'They're both going pretty positively and I think will be back in rounds two or three.
'We're going to monitor Wello a bit more before we make a decision but we won't take any risks. All three of them are too important to be rushed back. They will all be given the time to get 100% fit.'