Historic South Stand Sacrificed as Part of Headingley’s MajorRedevelopment
Headingley’s iconic South Stand had become a significant part of both Leeds Rhinos and rugby league history, but changes are now afoot and the demolition process has begun. Fans waved an emotional goodbye to the historic structure in August 2017 as the stadium redevelopment gets underway.
The South Stand
The south stand opened in 1931 with a large portion of the work carried out by a number of the clubs players. Down the years, it has seen numerous memorable games and its fair share of magical moments. Containing only terracing, the South Stand became extremely popular with traditionalists who enjoyed its ‘Kop’-style atmosphere. Leeds Rhinos remain the best-supported club in the Super League and when things are going to plan on the pitch, the South Stand regulars were often responsible for the majority of the noise ringing around Headingley.
The stand was given a new roof in 2000 which proved a costly exercise for the club; however, a complete demolition of the terrace began in August 2017, marking the end of an era. Amid the redevelopment process, the capacity of the stadium will be reduced from 19,500 to around 13,000. Fans and former players including Kevin Sinfield MBE have been asked to share their memories of the iconic stand with social media users setting up a dedicated hashtag (#laststand) enabling Rhinos supporters to reminisce about memorable evenings packed into the structure.
Major redevelopment work is currently underway at the stadium and is projected to be completed by spring 2019. Plans were initially in place to close the entire south stand for the duration of the 2017 Super League but this was initially delayed until Leeds City Council agreed on the funding with a private investor. The project is estimated to cost around £35 million and is a joint venture between Leeds Rugby, the City Council, Leeds Rugby and DLA Architecture. The Rhinos have pledged £5 million towards the redevelopment.
The new South Stand is set to feature a seating and standing area whilst the North Stand will also be overhauled. New floodlights are set to be installed alongside a new roof for the White Rose Stand. A new sponsorship deal has also been agreed with Emerald Group with naming rights coming into force from November 1, 2017.
The origins of the club were believed to have begun as early as 1864, although a number of teams regularly played in the city, including St. Johns and Northern Union. They were simply known as Leeds until 1996, adopting the ‘Rhinos’ part of their name ahead of the 1997 Super League season. During their history, they have had numerous successes, with Headingley Stadium witnessing plenty of memorable clashes. After clinching the Premiership title in 1979 to cap off a glittering decade of successes, the club achieved little success during the 1980s.
They reached their first Super League Grand Final in 1998 under the tutelage of Graham Murray but they weren’t able to overcome Wigan. The Rhinos gained their revenge in 2015 turning the tables in the prestigious match as part of the Rugby League treble which also included success in Challenge Cup and clinching the League Leaders Shield. Danny Maguire was the Rhino’s hero on October 7, 2017 as they triumphed 24-6 over Castleford at Old Trafford to clinch their eighth league title. Some football betting sites have installed Leeds as third-favourites for the 2018 Grand Final at 9/2, behind St Helens and Castleford in the betting. The Rhinos will continue to play at Headingley throughout the 2018 Super League season despite the re-developments and many feel that a reduced capacity may detract from the ferocious atmosphere that numerous away sides have come to expect.
Many Leeds Rhinos fans shed a tear following the announcement that the South Stand would be demolished in 2017 but the new development is set to overhaul the stadium and will help the city stage top-class sporting events on a regular basis. The project is set to be completed in time for the start of the 2019 Super League season and the team will also benefit from various improvements including brand new changing rooms in the North Stand. Headingley will be unrecognisable once the redevelopment is complete and Rhinos fans can look forward to creating plenty more memories at the refurbished venue.