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Sheffield Sharks' community arena hopes still alive as talks 'progressing well'

Sarah Backovic, managing director of Sheffield Sharks.
Sarah Backovic, managing director of Sheffield Sharks.
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Sheffield Sharks' hopes of building a community basketball arena could still be alive after club managing director Sarah Backovic said talks with bank bosses over a loan decision were 'progressing well'.

Sharks were given one month to finalise a financial plan which would enable them to build an arena on the Olympic Legacy Park by Sheffield Council last week.

How the arena on the Olympic Legacy Park could look

How the arena on the Olympic Legacy Park could look

The club is hoping to build the arena together with Park Community Arena Ltd and open it up to pupils from Oasis Academy Don Valley.

But with the council under pressure to be able to provide students with facilities by September 2019, when secondary pupils are due to join primary children currently studying at the site, the council's Cabinet members approved alternative proposals to provide provision at the English Institute of Sport.

The council’s Cabinet said it couldn’t delay a decision any longer and agreed with officers’ recommendations. Councillors have instructed work to begin with EISS.

But chief executive John Mothersole said the authority would reconsider if Sharks could get their financial plan secured within four weeks.

Ms Backovic said: "It's all going very positively and progressing well. The council gave us four weeks last week and we informed the bank."

If the bank loan is approved, Sharks then hope to obtain the rest of the funding from the council as a loan.

Speaking after the meeting last week, council chief executive John Mothersole said: “The Cabinet was very focused on making sure that the sports facilities are provided for the school as quickly as possible.

“They were also mindful that we were advised by PCA that they believed they were two to three weeks away from securing bank finances.

“Cabinet has agreed to officers’ recommendations to proceed with the EISS option.

“But if, within four weeks, PCA can secure confirmed bank finances; can give legal guarantees to the school; can show a business plan which can support the relevant interest rates; and can confirm their ability to be ready for the school in September 2019, then the council will consider re-evaluating the options.

“If we move forward with EISS then change the decision there will be aborted costs and the council will have to face up to these and deal with it.

“But we need to stop talking and get a decision made. It’s about moving forward for the sake of the school while accepting the PCA option may firm up more. The ball is now in their court to make progress.”