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Ambitious Coventry chairman Jon Sharp talks Butts Park Arena revamp

Ambitious Coventry are pushing ahead with plans for a stadium fit for the Premiership, joining Cornish Pirates in providing an antidote to ring-fencing.

With work on Pirates’ Stadium for Cornwall due to begin this Spring, Coventry chairman Jon Sharp is in “detailed discussions” with a property developer aimed at providing a 12,000-capacity facility with commercial opportunities attached.

Sharp, a huge admirer of Exeter Chiefs’ successful model, plans to incorporate apartments, a leisure centre and elite training facilities into a revamped Butts Arena complex – along with additional hospitality facilities and a 4G pitch to ensure a year-round income stream.

With the new pitch due to be laid this summer, Sharp believes the rest can follow quickly.

Sharp told TRP: “I don’t want to get into the ring-fencing debate – that’s subject to a number of meetings elsewhere – but there’s no change to our ambitions.

“What Rob Baxter and the guys at Exeter have done is brilliant. They’ve gone step by step, only gone as far as they could afford, but they’re sitting on top of the Premiership now; that’s down to their commercial success off the field as well as what they do on it.

“We have a prime city centre site at the Butts which gives an interesting opportunity for developers. It’s also a very limited site size-wise so whatever we do, we’ve got to be very careful that we get it exactly right.”

Sharp is targeting a number of key areas: “We want to improve spectator and playing facilities as well as creating elite training rooms, gyms and a medical suite.

“An artificial pitch is critical. At the moment we share with Rugby League and soccer and our pitch has been cutting up pretty badly. Beyond that we’re looking at commercial developments including apartments and a leisure centre.”

While timescales are yet to be nailed down, Sharp said: “We’re in detailed discussions with a property developer and we’ve taken the city council with us step-by-step.

“We want to put the club on a commercial footing that, like Exeter, is self-sustaining. Whether that’s enough to sustain Premiership performance is another matter – we’ll face that when we get there. It’s a long journey, but one we are willing to make.”

NEALE HARVEY

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