Leicestershire secure £1 million loan for redevelopment
Leicestershire County Cricket Club has secured a £1 million loan from the city council to improve its facilities in time for next year's Women's World Cup.
The loan, which will be repaid in full from Leicestershire's ECB grant in 2018, will be serviced at a 5% interest rate and secured by a formal legal agreement between the club and the ECB.
It follows Leicester City Council's lifting, in February 2014, of a 50-year-old covenant that had previously restricted development at the club. The club was granted permission, in January, to install permanent floodlights, which they hope will be in place by the start of this season's NatWest T20 Blast in May.
Grace Road was named earlier this month as one of the five venues for the Women's World Cup, alongside Taunton, Derby, Bristol and Lord's, which will host the final on July 23.
"We have a robust business plan and want to improve the experience of coming to the Fischer County Ground, Grace Road as quickly as we can," said Wasim Khan, Leicestershire's chief executive.
"Our plans include improving public Wi-Fi, increasing the number of quality food and drink outlets to reduce queuing, and developing our existing stands all around the ground. We also want to restore the Maurice Burrows Balcony to give supporters a great view of the action.
"It's imperative that we drive forward these plans as quickly as possible, as we are hosting major match days in the next two years, including our popular NatWest T20 Blast games and the ICC Women's World Cup in 2017. That event will help inspire a generation of young cricket supporters and will encourage more female cricketers to take up sport in the city of Leicester.
Despite ongoing concerns about the level of debt that the club has accumulated in recent seasons, Leicester's City Mayor, Peter Soulsby, said that he recognised the wide-reaching benefits of investing in sports facilities.
"The cricket club has ambitious plans which will help to attract more people to attend matches, and will raise the profile of the club and the city across the country," Soulsby said. "Having successful sports clubs brings major benefits to the city, as the recent success of Leicester City Football Club has shown. By providing this loan the council can help the cricket club to fast-track its improvements, and we will earn interest on the repayment.
"Five per cent interest is more than we would get if we left the money in the bank," Soulsby told the Leicester Mercury. "We are intensely aware that other well-meaning councils have had their fingers burned when they have made loans to sports clubs. [But] we have done all the due diligence on this and the loan is secured."