Wellesley Recreation Ground
The Wellesley Recreation Ground is an important historic and recreational asset of Great Yarmouth and has great untapped potential:
- the world's oldest football stand
- fantastic facilities for athletics
- situated next to the sea
- part of a strong urban fabric
- adjacent to the Venetian Waterways and Boating Lake
- walking distance to the town centre that is itself being regenerated
The Wellesley Recreation Ground was opened in 1888 in order to provide formal facilities for sports in Great Yarmouth. By 1890, local architect, JW Cockrill, had erected a tennis pavilion, ticket office and grandstand on the site. All three buildings are now listed with Grade II status. The grandstand is now considered to be the oldest football stand in Britain, and possibly the world, and is still in use. The other two buildings are not in use and are currently boarded up. The Recreation Ground is also protected by a 'Fields in Trust' covenant.
Today, the ground is utilised by Great Yarmouth Town Football Club and Great Yarmouth Athletics Club, with community use on the co-located Multi Use Games Area (MUGA) and tennis court.
In 2015, Great Yarmouth Borough Council undertook a Sport, Play and Leisure Strategy to provide an evidence-led approach to the future provision of leisure and sport facilities for the borough's population. The need for further artificial grass pitches (3G/4G) in the borough was identified to serve the borough's needs moving forward. The Wellesley Road Recreation Ground was also identified in the strategy as a key site that could benefit from a trust model of management, recognising the opportunities for dedicated site management and external funding.
In 2019, Sporting Assets was commissioned to complete a feasibility study of the site, to look at future development and improvements opportunities that could be made to meet the needs of the community and the Council's objectives. The feasibility study was completed in March 2019. The initial review of the site identified several site issues including:
- increased anti-social behaviour on the site
- lack of planned maintenance investment of the site with the grandstand being in poor decorative condition, and the changing rooms in need of complete refurbishment
- the Grade II listed tennis pavilion and ticket office are redundant and continue to be at risk of loss
The feasibility study informed the start of a phased approach to improving the site.