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Businesses hope for boost from Ospreys stadium move

10 Jul 2024 6 minute read
Rugby at St Helen’s, Swansea, where the Ospreys will play from 2025-26 onwards. Photo by Swansea Council

Richard Youle, Local democracy reporter

Hospitality businesses near St Helen’s Rugby and Cricket Ground are hopeful the the Ospreys’ move to the seaside venue next year will provide a much-needed lift for the sector.

The regional rugby side confirmed earlier this week that St Helen’s had pipped Bridgend’s Brewery Field in the two-horse race to be the club’s new home after the 2024-25 season.

There is much work to do to transform the historic but dated ground overlooking Swansea Bay but the prospect of thousands of match-day spectators and other events has been embraced by pubs and cafes in Brynmill.

The Ospreys formed in 2003 from Neath and Swansea rugby clubs and moved to the new Liberty Stadium, Landore, in 2005, leaving Swansea RFC as an amateur club at St Helen’s.

Swansea RFC, or the Whites as they’re known, had been a very successful club side – the first anywhere to claim the scalps of New Zealand, South Africa and Australia.

Buzz

Robert Payne, general manager of The Bryn-Y-Mor pub, Brynmill, said customers have told him how busy the pub used to be during the St Helen’s glory days. “There has been a bit of a buzz for a few weeks,” said Mr Payne about the St Helen’s speculation. “We are a sports pub, and it’ll definitely bring some business our way.”

Robert Payne, general manager of The Bryn-Y-Mor pub, is excited about the Ospreys move to nearby St Helen’s in 2025. Photo pic by Richard Youle

Home and away crowds at St Helen’s won’t lack food and drink options before and after matches. Fans of vegan bara brith, organic scrambled tofu and flat whites are catered for in Brynmill along with more traditional pub, Indian and Oriental fare.

“I think it will be amazing,” said Mike Clay, head of coffee at Hoogah Cafe and Bar, of the Ospreys’ move. “I think the bars around here will make a lot of money. It’s a difficult time to be in hospitality at the minute, there’s not a lot of money going around. Obviously it’s going to be busier. It’ll change the way we structure shifts.”

Circumspect

Matt Barker-Smith, the owner of stand-up paddle board business The SUP Hut and co-owner of Ground Plant Based Coffee, was slightly more circumspect, wondering how long the Ospreys would stay at a ground it didn’t own.

He added: “As a business opportunity, if money is to be pumped into the Brynmill area you would think we’d benefit from footfall. But you can imagine that whoever is doing up St Helen’s will be trying to keep footfall at St Helen’s.”

Helen Wilson, co-owner of Ground Plant Based Coffee, said she was delighted. “Having kept a small independent business going for the last three years, just down the road from St Helen’s, I’m really pleased to hear of the Ospreys’ plans,” she said. “I’m hopeful it will help breathe even more life into the area and benefit all the local businesses. It will be a great facility and hopefully bring a different clientele, in addition to the students, residents and office workers.”

Jayne Morgan, who works at The Westbourne pub, supports the Ospreys but has hardly watched them live in Landore. “It’s going to be great news for the pub because people will come in for a drink before the game, a bit of lunch, and if it’s been a good game they’ll come in for a drink on the way back,” she said. “It’ll be good for this part of town.”

‘Over the moon’

Ryan Hole, managing director of The Secret Hospitality Group, whose food and drink venues include The Secret Beach Bar and Kitchen, directly opposite St Helen’s, said: “We’re over the moon. It has been rumoured for a while and we’d hoped it would come to fruition. It’s an iconic destination. We are looking at how we can work with the Ospreys to mutually benefit both parties.”

Brynmill’s gain could be Landore and Plasmarl’s loss, although Swansea City AFC play at what’s now the Swansea.com Stadium. A member of staff at Pizzeria Vesuvio, opposite the stadium, said it might get a few less customers. “But we’re a busy restaurant, and we’ll still be busy,” he said.

Swansea.Com Stadium image by Nation.Cymru

Ospreys chiefs said St Helen’s had emerged as the first choice due to its proximity to the region’s supporter and sponsor bases and the ability to work alongside Swansea Council to inject new life into the ground.

In a statement on July 8, the club said: “Our multi-million pound investment in the site will see the installation of a new 4G pitch, new stands, a refurbishment of the club house, and the introduction of a new fan zone area. The aim is to provide supporters with an unrivalled match day experience and develop new opportunities for non-match day events and revenue.”

It added: “Swansea RFC and Swansea University will continue to play at St Helen’s, and it’s our ambition for the ground to host an increased number of community games. Swansea Cricket Club have been fully engaged in discussions about the redevelopment of the site, and an announcement about where they will play their games in the future will be made in due course.”

Ospreys chief executive Lance Bradley said: “Our investment demonstrates our confidence not only in the plans we have both on and off the pitch, but also our confidence in the future of Welsh rugby and the plans being developed by the Welsh Rugby Union.”

Council leader Rob Stewart said he was delighted. “It’s something many Ospreys fans will be very excited about,” he said. “We’ve worked closely with Lance and his team throughout their search for a preferred new home, and this is really great news for the city.”


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