‘Door still open’ for Sheffield Sharks to build community arena despite move back to Ponds Forge

Sheffield Sharks’ dream of opening a community basketball arena is still alive but the clock is ticking for the club to secure funding for the project.

Tuesday, 14th May 2019, 1:29 pm

That was the message from Richard Caborn, project lead for the Olympic Legacy park, where Sharks hope to build a 2,500-seater arena.

Sharks played their last game at the English Institute of Sport Sheffield after 13 years on Thursday when they took on London City Royals in the first-leg of the BBL Playoffs.

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How the Park Community Arena would look.

The club’s season came to an end with a second-leg defeat in the capital on Sunday and the team will move back to Ponds Forge for the 2019/20 season.

But attention will now switch to off-court matters as its owners and directors await a decision on possible funding for the Olympic Legacy park project.

Mr Caborn said: “We are waiting for the Sharks to complete the negotiations with the banks. We are waiting for them to make a decision and once they have, and if they come up with the goods, it can happen.

“The site is quite a good position within the park and I am holding it for them. They have got to get the funding over the line and a lot of people want it to happen.”

Richard Caborn at the Olympic Legacy Park.

Their hopes were dealt a blow in January when Sheffield Council vowed to start work on an extension of the EIS Sheffield but the Sharks insisted the works had ‘no bearing’ on its own proposals.

The council asked the Sharks to finalise a bank loan which would enable them to build an arena on the OLP back in July.

But with the council under pressure to be able to provide students with sports facilities by September, when more secondary school pupils are due to join Oasis Academy Don Valley, it said it was pressing ahead with the EIS plans.

Sheffield Sharks managing director Sarah Backovic.

In a statement released at the time, Sheffield Sharks said: “In view of the recent article concerning the build of PCA Ltd and the community arena, Sharks Basketball club would like to state that the extension at EIS has no bearing on the future development of the proposed Community Arena.

“PCA Ltd are committed to developing an affordable venue that will engage all sports and the community use alike.

“Announcements will be made appropriately and in due course.”

A planning application made by Sheffield International Venues to build a four-court sports hall with storage and changing facilities at the EIS was withdrawn in November.

Sheffield Sharks in action against Manchester Giants.

But the council said it was pressing ahead with its EIS plans.

Sharks general manager Sarah Backovic said the club would move back to Ponds Forge when the new season begins in September.

She said : “Everybody enjoyed their time at EISS including all our oppositions.

“Ponds Forge was much more of a fortress a slightly more difficult arena to play in unless you train there everyday, so that will bring an additional element of defence I have no doubt.”

Ponds Forge.