Hull KR furious over 'shambolic' £8m North Stand project at Craven Park
ANGRY officials at Hull KR have labelled the development of their new £8m North Stand at Craven Park "shambolic" and told the city council they will play no further part in its completion.
It comes as a major fall-out between the club and council officers has led to the Robins quitting a joint steering group overseeing the project.
Rovers have been left furious by continued delays, with the latest problems now ruling out any chance of the stand being used this season.
As a result, KR have told the authority they want no further part in the project, and will not be attending future meetings on its progress.
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The council responded to the criticism last night insisting without its support there would be no stand - and saying it was @disappointed" with Rovers' stand.
The fallout came to light when the Mail asked the Robins for an update on the development ahead of this year's forthcoming World Cup, for which MS3 Craven Park is a host venue.
Chairman Neil Hudgell said he was unable to comment on the latest planned completion date, as Rovers had last week "resigned their position" from the steering group.
He claimed poor management of the project had placed unnecessary financial pressures on the club – costing them in the region of £750,000 to £1m in revenue.
Mr Hudgell also said Rovers have major concerns over design failings, which have seen it differ vastly from plans they were shown prior to construction.
Incredibly, it has even seen the exterior cladding of the new stand installed in blue, instead of the planned club colours of red as had been agreed.
"The whole development of the North Stand has been shambolic from the start and at present we are in danger of missing a great opportunity of providing a great facility not just for Rovers, but also for east Hull," Mr Hudgell said.
"We are heading down the route of ending up with a glorified office block for the majority of the year, used 13 times a year for fans to use a couple of thousand seats."
As well as being the wrong colour, Rovers say planned viewing areas looking out onto the pitch from sponsors lounges are much smaller than had been planned.
In addition, Mr Hudgell says Rovers have had to point out the need for continual redesigns due to a lack of planned turnstiles, and toilets in the restaurant areas, delaying it further.
They are also concerned that as yet, no tenant has been secured for the "Enterprise Centre".
"Without doubt, the poor management of this project from day one has cost us hugely as a club," Mr Hudgell said.
"It is a loss we can ill-afford as it is well documented that last year we lost more than £500,000 – a figure which is under-written by myself and other directors.
"We have made it clear for some time that this club has needed this development up and running to ensure self-sustainability, yet we have had delay after delay which could have been avoided.
"Ultimately, it has cost us between £750,000 to £1m on our bottom line this year. "
Mr Hudgell points to a six-month delay between the first and second tender submissions in 2011, caused because the chosen bidder was found to be £1m short in its estimated costings, as the start of the problems.
He also claims the council was at fault for another delay in securing European funding through a failure to submit paperwork, and questioned the abilities of project managers NPS, a development company part-owned by the council and selected at a cost of £650,000, despite having no stadium development experience.
He would not say if the club would be seeking any compensation as a result, but said he was adamant the authority had cost his club a big sum.
"Had we been in occupation of the stand now, as we should have been, we would be earning upwards of £250,000 a year," Mr Hudgell said.
"We would also have been in receipt of a £500,000 advance against a new catering and brewery deal, which has now been lost.
"We were told the stand would be complete for the end of July, and subsequently arranged for our home derby with Hull to be staged in August, but now we will miss that, leaving us with another shortfall in the region of £75,000."
Mr Hudgell said the club had resigned its position from the steering group as it had taken the view it was becoming something they "didn't want to put their name to".
"We certainly haven't taken this decision lightly and I don't want to come across as ungrateful," he said.
"Council members, particularly the leader Steve Brady, have been wonderfully supportive of this project for the club and community, and for that we are grateful.
"I am as frustrated for him as us and the community, as he took a brave decision to run with this development in the face of massive cuts. The people delivering this project have massively let him down in that respect.
"It has been problem after problem.
"The size of the function areas have been reduced because of poor layouts, and when we asked the surveyor why the cladding was blue and not red, he said, in all seriousness, because 'it matches the sky'. It looks completely out of place."
Councillor Daren Hale, deputy leader of the authority and chairman of the North Stand steering group, said he was "disappointed" with Rovers' decision to quit the group and some of the criticisms they have made.
He denied that delays could be laid solely at the council's door, saying there had been "many contributing factors on both sides" since the project was first discussed some years ago.
However, he did say the most recent four to five week delay for design changes had been "disappointing".
Cllr Hale also pointed to the fact that without the authority's support, the club would simply not have been able to benefit from a new stand.
"Without the council's support, this project would not be financially viable for the club," he said.
"We chose to locate our training and regeneration facility there to help the club secure the stand and also to provide a facility for the people of east Hull. It was only our desire to support and help the club which led to us choosing that site.
"We also helped the scheme access European funding to help them gain an £8m new facility, for which they will not start paying their contribution until it is completed.
"We are disappointed that Hull KR have pulled out of the project group rather than trying to resolve any problems as part of it and for not flagging up some of these issues much earlier.
"I hope the club reconsider their position and stick with the project group."
Cllr Hale did admit to sharing the club's disappointment at the current appearance, in which blue cladding has been used instead of red.
He said that matter was being taken up with NPS and the contractors, and that their overall management of the project would also be reviewed on completion.
"Obviously, like the club, we expect the stand to be red and we expect that matter to be resolved. Nobody on the project board that I chair has sanctioned that decision, and that is one issue I would agree entirely with the club on," he said.
"That needs addressing, as do any other issues over design, but the correct place to do that is at the steering group, so we hope Rovers come back on board.
"The council has a long history of support for the club, which is best demonstrated by our commitment to the North Stand development for the people of east Hull.
"A few years ago, we also helped the club with funding to relay the pitch to enable it to be brought up to standard for Super League."
Asked if the authority would consider any request for compensation given the club's claims of lost revenue, Cllr Hale said such a claim would have to be made in writing before being considered.
Responding to Cllr Hale's claims of continued support to the club, Mr Hudgell said Rovers were far from being given a handout.
"People will say we are getting this for free, but we are not. We are paying a commercial rent for the space of £60,000 for the use of the 2,600 seats on 13 days of the year," Mr Hudgell said.
"Anything extra we have to pay for, again at a commercial rent. We need to get away from this idea that the stand is a gift to the club. It's far from it.
"We will be paying an amount yearly more than the KC Stadium has contributed in a decade to the council, and at a time when it has been revealed that the council actually subsidises our cross city rivals indirectly through the KC Stadium SMC, that is hard to take.
"That to me sums up the whole east/west investment imbalance, and it just isn't good enough "
Hull East MP Karl Turner said he had met with the council leader, deputy leader and chief executive Daryl Stephenson last week to raise his concerns over the development and row between parties.
"The issues I raised were the very obvious," he said. "The stand is blue, instead of red, and there is clearly an issue over toilet provision.
"I know there are other issues concerning the club and the chairman, but they are for the council and the club to resolve.
"I have been assured my concerns are being looked into, and I am confident they will be addressed by the council,
"Let's not forget that this development is still not finished, and I am confident that any issues can be resolved and that it can be an excellent development for the club and community."