PROPOSALS for a 15,000-seater new Tranmere Rovers stadium could get crucial backing from Wirral Council and the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority.

The ‘Sports City’ project, a plan for land at the former Bidston Dock which would have a new ground as its centrepiece, could receive £100,000 from both authorities.

The total project cost is estimated to be £100m, with the Sports City complex to potentially include a digital golf driving range and food and retail outlets, as well as the 15,000-capacity stadium which the club would have the ability to redevelop to enable 25,000 fans to fit inside.

A meeting of Wirral Council’s Economy, Regeneration and Housing Committee, on June 13, must decide whether to accept a £100,000 grant from the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority (LCRCA) for a feasibility study, which will look at whether the project would work or not. If the project goes ahead, the club’s current Prenton Park ground would be made available for housing.

Papers released prior to next week’s meeting show Wirral Council feels the project will be “a major catalyst to the Wirral Waters programme”, a plan for up to 13,000 homes on the Birkenhead docklands over the next 25 years. The document added: “If the project were able to proceed it would not only help to safeguard the future of Tranmere Rovers FC as an important ‘community asset’ but also to contribute to enhanced health and leisure provision as well as increased employment and long-term economic growth.”

As far as the football club is concerned, the council paper added: “Over recent years TRFC [Tranmere Rovers Football Club] has established a reputation as a model for a professional football club. This has seen significant investment in its asset base including new training facilities at the Solar Campus in Leasowe.

“In order to achieve a self sustainable Championship club, TRFC considers that it is necessary to replace its ageing stadium at Prenton Park and move to a modern facility.” As well as the stadium, which will include an in-built hotel and conference/event facilities, the Sports City site could also host a digital golf driving range, food and retail outlets and a sports science facility.

The council said this is not the limit of potential attractions at the site, as the list it provided was “not exhaustive”. Currently, Peel Land and Development owns the land and supports the principle of the project, but only wants to be involved in the plan as the land owner and does not want to get involved in developing the project itself.

As far as the money is concerned, this project was initially discussed with the LCRCA two years ago. Wirral Council said at that time the plan was mainly focused on the new stadium, but it did not progress due to the pandemic.

The new plan is bigger in scale and includes other things in addition to the football ground. Now, the LCRCA has indicated its support for the feasibility study and has agreed in-principle to fund £100,000 out of the £200,000 this would cost.

Wirral Council would fund the other £100,000 out of its capital funding, meaning the money is not competing with day-to-day services such as leisure centres or adult social care for resources. The document said Tranmere Rovers was not able to contribute towards the cost at this time due to costs incurred from covid recovery, but has agreed to fund £50,000 of the council’s cost as and when the project goes ahead, either in cash or in kind.

This feasibility study is set to be completed by December and would look at issues such as the business case and how quickly the project could be delivered. As for the overall project, which is estimated to cost approximately £100m, the document read: “The potential sources of funding include a future sale of Prenton Park, private investment opportunities in TRFC, private sector investment from those companies who will occupy the site, and regeneration grants.

“The funding sources will be considered further in the feasibility study.” Wirral Council itself is in a tough financial position, after being slated in two government reports last November and producing a budget featuring £20m worth of cuts in February.

On this, the document added: “Therefore, the council will not be committing any funding to progress the project unless the outcome of the feasibility study demonstrates the potential for a cashable return on investment for the council.

“This includes the funding of any capital borrowing associated with the project. This will be considered as part of the full business case if the recommendation from the feasibility study is to progress.”

Tranmere Rovers were approached for comment.