Cornish Pirates are planning ahead in Penzance
Cornish Pirates have confirmed their intention to renovate their current home ground, Penzance's Mennaye Field, while they await the next set of developments in the long-running Stadium for Cornwall saga.
Cornwall's top rugby union team have had something of a nomadic existence during the past decade, playing home games in Truro and Camborne as well as Penzance. Their long-term goal is a new home at Threemilestone, near Truro, but the project to build a stadium there has become a political battleground.
A planned £10million funding package was scrapped by Cornwall County Council in May this year, and subsequent strife within the local authority has not increased the likelihood of significant amounts of public money being put aside to turn the Stadium for Cornwall into reality.
The private sector has had to bear the burden, and last month Cornwall Community Stadium Limited, a consortium comprising property developers Inox Group, Truro and Penwith College and the rugby club, submitted detailed plans to the council.
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The intention is to develop a 10,000-seat venue at a planned cost of £16.5 million, with scope to increase its capacity to 15,000. Outline planning permission for the site at Langarth Farm was granted back in January.
The overall package for the entire site includes commercial development, conference facilities and housing, but the project remains in its infancy and a Stadium for Cornwall is still a distant dream, it seems. Hence the Pirates' plans.
As well as improving their traditional home, Mennaye Field, they aim to strengthen their playing squad with a view to retaining their status as leading members of the second tier of English rugby.
The full statement issued yesterday by the RFU Championship club, which was signed by Pirates chief executive Rod Coward, read: "Despite the ongoing uncertainty surrounding a delivery date for a Stadium for Cornwall, following a recent meeting to review our options, the board of the Cornish Pirates has taken some decisions with respect to our near-term future.
"This announcement is intended to provide our supporters with some clarity as to these future plans. Although we believe a stadium at Threemilestone will one day become a reality, we have to move forward as a club both on and off the field, and our destiny must be in our own hands.
"Primarily, our basic aim is to be a competitive Championship club with the goal in each season being a top-four finish. We also believe that the British and Irish Cup is a worthwhile and exciting competition, and each season we will be looking to progress into the knock-out stages of the competition.
"Off the field, we are intending to introduce significant improvements to the Mennaye, and we will be releasing further information on these proposals as soon as we have clarity and finance in place.
"It is our intention to seek to retain the vast majority of our existing squad whilst at the same time looking to recruit quality players for certain key positions. We have already begun contract talks with several players.
"We hope to further develop our relationships with Exeter and other Premiership clubs as we believe there is real benefit in the utilisation of dual-registered and loan players."
Exeter Chiefs backs Sam Hill and Jack Nowell, who are both England Under-20 internationals, have helped their careers and the Pirates by gaining first-team experience with the Cornish club this term, while other young players from Exeter and Aviva Premiership rivals Bath have also worn the Penzance outfit's colours in battle conditions.
The Pirates want to be able to join Bath and Exeter in the top flight, but they know they cannot do so without a venue fit for the Premiership.