A nomadic rugby team believe they have finally found a permanent home in a Blackpool park.
Since their inception in 1979, Blackpool Stanley Rugby League Club had played at venues around the area including on the De Vere Hotel site at Heron’s Reach and in Stanley Park itself.
But the team never had a permanent site they could really call home and combine a club building with a pitch of their own.
In 2010 though, thanks to a partnership with Blackpool Council, they took over the lease on a disused outbuilding at Kingscote Park and began to look to the future.
With a lot of hard work, and through some successful funding bids and generous sponsorship from local businesses, they have since transformed it into a high quality facility which is perfect for their three young teams (under 14s, 15s and 16s) to change, shower and socialise.
They’ve also increased the sustainability of the club by slashing heating and hot water bills by investing in a ground source heat energy system and raise cash through clothing collections and recycling.
And the final piece of the puzzle will come soon as the club prepare to begin relocate their matches to the park too.
The incredible transformation has been driven by a core of volunteers and now provides rugby training and matches for as many as 60 young people.
Remarkably, the club have even done it all while offering free membership and training.
“We have always ensured rugby league is free at the point of delivery,” Stanley chairman, Simon Hornby, said.
“It doesn’t matter if you’ve got mum and dad bringing you along in a BMW or if you’re from a family going through hard times; when it comes to rugby, we make it a level playing field.”
The club’s progress led them to be named Blackpool Sports Council’s Community Club of the Year for 2014.
And as part of their prize, and thanks to Blackpool Council’s deal with fitness equipment provider, Matrix, the young players were treated to a visit to meet their heroes, Wigan Warriors.
The young Stanley players were able to watch Shaun Wane’s men in training and the players kindly signed autographs and chatted with the Stanley youngsters who currently play in two North West Counties based leagues, the 13 – 15 league and the 16-18 league.
They also support the local schools league through volunteering.
Now, when their new home in the park is complete, which could be as early as next season, the team are planning to go from strength-to-strength and even start up an open-age team again.
“The future looks bright,” Simon said
“But we’re under no illusions; the hard work has got to carry on and we have to make the club sustainable.”
Cllr Graham Cain, Blackpool Council’s cabinet member for leisure and tourism, said: “Blackpool Stanley has worked with our team really closely, with their local ward councillors, with local businesses and with the local community.
“They are a great example to clubs in the area of how they can operate in this era where providing financial support is becoming more and more difficult for local councils due to funding cuts.
“We wish them the very best and luck forward to continuing to work with them in the future.”
For more information about sport in Blackpool, visit www.sportblackpool.co.uk|