As news filtered through of plans to build a stadium which will home both the Championship’s Cornish Pirates team and Truro and Penwith College, dreams of turning Cornwall into a rugby powerhouse are starting to turn into a reality.
According to the BBC, the Pirates hope the stadium will be completed by June 2018 and the plan is to create a purpose-built 10,000-seater stadium.
The stadium would become an all-encompassing sports hub for the region, and would allow the Cornish rugby league team and the Cornish Sharks American football squad to play there as well.
Currently, Cornish Pirates are tenants at Mennaye Field, where they have been based for almost all of their time as a rugby entity. The side, originally known as Penzance and Newlyn RFC, first played games at the ground in 1945 and bar a five year absence have always been based at the Penzance ground.
The stadium currently has a capacity 4,000, which is suitable for Championship level rugby, but any long-term future at the highest level of the English game would need a site with the capacity to draw in much larger crowds.
As a consistent and credible force in English rugby’s second tier, the English Championship, for many years now, it wasn’t until the arrival of ex-Pirate Dicky Evans that the club really began to see itself in the upper echelons of domestic rugby.
For so long Cornish fans were frustrated to see so many local players move on to other pastures to further their careers. The likes of England centre Olly Barkley, winger Tom Voyce, number eight Hugh Vyvyan, Sevens legend Ben Gollings, Fijian international Josh Matevesi and England Sevens cap Rob Thirlby are just some of the names who left the region.
Moreover, two of England’s 2003 World Cup-winning front row, Trevor Woodman and Phil Vickery, both grew up in the region but later left for Gloucester.
Evans’ 20 years of involvement at the club saw a rebranding to the Cornish Pirates moniker and a club in a financially healthy position. On his retirement from his ownership of the club in 2014, Evans said (via the BBC):
“[The new owners] inherit the club in a considerably better position than it was in 1995 when I became seriously involved, as we have no debt and are in the top 24 teams in England. Long may it last.
“I have sold the business totally debt free for £1 and written off all loans to both the professional club and to the members club including numerous costs over the years associated with the upkeep of the clubhouse Westholme as well as the nursery training pitch sorted in the late 1990s.
“The Pirates will now move into an exciting new era with new ideas and new energy.”
Like their neighbours Exeter, Cornwall have built up a solid foundation for future success and with a new ground on the horizon, the club could easily grow into a Premiership entity within the next few years.
The ‘Stadium for Cornwall’ may well become a shining beacon in a potential rugby hotbed that for so long has gone unrealised.
Paul Wassell, Pundit Arena
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