People's Post

Newlands Rugby Stadium bidding process concluded

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Newlands Rugby Stadium has been left empty following Western Province Rugby Football Union’s move to the Cape Town Stadium in February 2021. PHOTO: Nettalie Viljoen
Newlands Rugby Stadium has been left empty following Western Province Rugby Football Union’s move to the Cape Town Stadium in February 2021. PHOTO: Nettalie Viljoen

The sealed bidding process for the Newlands Rugby Stadium has been concluded, “subject to the outcome of the current heritage site application being reviewed by Heritage Western Cape (HWC)”.

Rian Oberholzer, the administrator appointed by SA Rugby to manage the Western Province Rugby Football Union’s (WPRFU) affairs, shared this news with People’s Post last week.

The initial meeting with HWC’s Inventories, Grading and Interpretation Committee (IGIC) was held on Friday 5 August.

“WPRFU, through the office of the Administrator, will address its response to the heritage application within the timeframe provided,” said Oberholzer.

In February, the WPRFU and SA Rugby announced that the stadium was to be placed on the market in a sealed bidding process.

According to Sport24, the sale was supposed to be signed on Tuesday 14 June, with the winning bid to be announced at the end of the month.

An application in June to have the iconic stadium declared a provincial heritage site, however, raised concerns that it might result in the sealed bidding process being scuppered.

Should the stadium be declared a provincial heritage site, it will mean that it can’t be demolished to make way for new development.

Former Springbok captain Wynand Claassen, who represents a group called Save Newlands Rugby Stadium Campaign, says the application was submitted by Leonie Marais, a heritage practitioner specialist, on the group’s behalf on Monday 6 June.

Claassen says that the nomination is not intended to prevent or interfere with transactions in respect of the relevant property between the owner and prospective purchasers, but aimed at ensuring that the stadium is declared as a heritage site.

“During this IGIC meeting, our team presented and motivated our case that Newlands Stadium be preserved and developed into a living museum to become one of the major tourist attractions in the country,” he says.

In the historical notes presented by the group at the IGIC meeting, Claassen (who is also a professional architect) emphasised that Newlands Rugby Stadium, with the ground bought in 1888, was the oldest rugby stadium in the world.

He wrote that numerous great moments had been captured on the playing field and that the stadium had a huge impact on social cohesion, nation building and recreation.

“For this reason alone, the stadium should be retained, not demolished and re-developed for a new purpose, due to the relocation of Western Province Rugby to the Cape Town Stadium,” says Claassen.

According to the documents filed with HWC, the group states that their intention is to create a living museum and entertainment centre “that would include a mixed-use development plan and minor alterations to the current structures or designs”.

“The pavilion is to be used as a basis to construct shops, offices, restaurants and bars, with open balconies and pedestrian promenades overlooking the field,” the notes read.

Claassen says the proposed project will revolve around social, accommodation, business, entertainment, studios for artists and heritage uses.

“Since our application was submitted, HWC did not request additional information, as they were happy with our application,” he claims.

Michael Janse van Rensburg, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of (HWC), confirms that an application to declare Newlands Rugby Stadium as a provincial heritage site was received in June.

He says that the nomination process of the property is not affected by the sale.

Janse van Rensburg explains that for a resource to be proposed for a heritage site, it must have special qualities which make it significant in the context of a province or region. He says the application is currently in the owner consultation period.

“The significance of a site is established in consultation with all relevant stakeholders,” he says.

As to when a final ruling will be given on the application, Janse van Rensburg says it is hard to say.

“A finalisation time is case specific, depending on its complexity. This is yet to be determined,” he says.

In the meantime, Western Cape Club Rugby members have expressed their concern that they might be left hanging by the sale of the stadium.

Traditionally, their Super League A, B, C and knockout matches are held at the Newlands venue in October.

“Whilst the details of the hosting of the matches in respect of Club Rugby is not yet finalised, it is likely that the preferred venue will be City Park,” said Oberholzer.

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