Club: Bath Rugby RFC
Ground Opened: 1894
Stadium Name: The Recreation Ground
Stadium Address Spring Gardens
Telephone 01225 469230
Home colours: Blue with Black and White
Away Colours: White with Black and Blue
League (2016/17): Aviva Premiership
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Bath Rugby:Stadiums Past,Present …..and Future
Bath Rugby Football Club is one of the oldest clubs in existence, being founded in 1865. With an original home base at North Parade, Bath
led a nomadic existence during the 1800’s, playing at Claverton Down, Lambridge Meadows, Taylor’s Field and Henrietta Park.
They then leased a plot of land at Pulteney Meadow where today’s Rec stands.
On April 14 2010 Bath Rugby announced a change of ownership. Andrew Brownsword, the owner and Chairman of the Club, and the Trustees were selling 100% of the Club’s shares to Bruce Craig, a West Country born entrepreneur.
The club proposed to create a new club headquarters and elite training complex at Farleigh House, in Farleigh Hungerford, 15 minutes from the centre of Bath. Additionally, there was a renewed commitment to plans for a 20-25,000 seat stadium. It was in November 2009 that the then new chief executive, Nick Blofeld, stated that the club was seeking a mostly seated stadium for 20,000 to suit modern professional rugby, with potential for future expansion.
Because of the charitable status and sensitive central location of the Rec the club thought it might not be practical to develop this ground. The club was considering other sites within Bath, especially the Western Riverside Development, for a future ground.
Following the completion of the public consultation by the Recreation Ground Trust, the club announced in August 2011 that 86% of the votes were in favour of the club’s proposal for land use at the Rec.
The next stage was a further public consultation process that would hopefully shape a planning process “in the next few months”.
Only 30% of Bath fans live in the city but whether coming from near or far, all recognize the paradox that is the Rec.It is probably the most picturesque ground in the world, but with the most antiquated facilities.
How to develop the council-owned ground is a debate that has raged for ages, with the Rec’s charitable status meaning plans must first be approved by the Charity Commission. Bath think they’ve found a solution, offering to buy the club’s 11-acre outer-city training ground,Lambridge, from trustees of the old club and gift it to the Recreation Ground Trust; in return, Bath Rugby would acquire a couple of extra inner-city areas in which to embark on much-needed home improvements.
Knocking down the cowshed (aka west stand) that backs onto the River Avon
would be a good place to start. “We want to build a gorgeous pavilion with a
couple of cafes and a shop”, says Chief Executive Nick Blofeld. “At the moment the club turns its back on the city, so we hope to open up the connection to the river, look out over the abbey and Pulteney Bridge and the weir.” The pitch would be moved 35 metres deeper into the Rec. The ugly leisure centre will have to stay, but a few boxes could be added to the south stand in front of it and a new modular stand is planned for the east side-complete with a roof. Music to the ears of those diehards who currently endure “character-building” horizontal rain in January when watching from its exposed seats. The capacity would rise to 17,000 or 18,000.
The Charity Commission has granted the Recreation Ground Trust the power to make a decision over the granting of a new lease to the club.
Bath Rugby are seeking the lease so that they can redevelop the stadium to Premiership Rugby standards.
Any new development would have stands on three sides, with the Novia (East) Stand remaining temporary to allow for its removal in the summer, as happens now.
This decision was challenged at a Tribunal in April 2014 by three residents of Bath and a judge ruled that the Recreation Ground Trust were unable to give Bath Rugby a slightly enlarged footprint at the Rec, requirwd for the new development proposals.
The RGT has successfully sought leave to appeal the Charity Trust decision and Bath Rugby is working closely with RGT on the next step.
In the meantime, Bath Rugby has submitted a planning application for temporary improvements at The Rec. The submission, which seeks permission for two seasons (2014/15 and 2015/16), will enable the club to improve facilities and increase capacity ahead of their 150th anniversary in 2015.
This temporary application is completely separate to the main plans to develop the Rec.
In the October 2013 issue of Rugby World magazine, columnist Stephen Jones wrote: “Some months ago, perhaps unkindly, I referred to the Recreation Ground, home of the once and future Mighty Bath, as The Wreck. It was neither an original label nor a subtle one. But it was fitting. The place may have a setting breathtaking in its beauty, but it’s simply not up to standard for a modern rugby club.
For this observation I was castigated for impatience....I was forced to find a 1982 article in which Bath said a massive improvement in their facilities was imminent and that everyone should have patience until it was complete. I realise that to install a dog kennel in Bath needs planning permission and a rigmarole lasting decades. But I am one of those renegades who believe that unless firm plans are passed and unless a foundation stone for a new arena is laid down within a year, they should move out to the city outskirts.”
Last Updated July 2016
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