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Wasps eyes further expansion with training ground and leisure facility

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Wasps Rugby Club is gearing up for further expansion following its acquisition of the Ricoh Arena, with a “state of the art” training ground and a 150,000sq ft (13,935sq metres) leisure facility in the pipeline.

The Aviva Premiership club purchased the stadium in Coventry for £20m ($30.1m, €27.6m) in October 2014, securing a 32,500-seater ground, a 40,000-capacity concert venue, 20,000sq m (215,278sq ft) of exhibition space, a 121-room hotel and the UK’s third largest casino.

Talking at last month’s Rugby Expo, Wasps chief executive David Armstrong said the “three-pronged strategy” of sport, business and entertainment would “futureproof Wasps Rugby Club for the next 100 years” and be the foundation of its growth plans.

Armstrong revealed the club was ramping up its strategy to 2023 and was not planning to “sit on its hands”. As well as the new rugby base and the leisure facility – which is at the very early stages of planning – Wasps also wants to add a “second or possibly third hotel” and expand its retail business across the Midlands in an attempt to capitalise on its new potential fanbase.

A site for the new training facility is due to be unveiled in the New Year after the club receives planning confirmation from the local council.

“We are now a full end-to-end leisure business headlined by a great rugby brand,” he said. “We are able to diversify, we can take a view on different types of investments we want to take, whether that’s business, entertainment or sport.”

Whereas matchday income and central income made up 37 per cent and 52 per cent of the revenue when Wasps was based at Wycombe Wanderers’ Adams Park, they now count for 13 per cent and 18 per cent respectively.

At the Ricoh Arena, property and rental services (16 per cent), and arena sponsorship (16 per cent) bring in a substantial chunk of the club’s revenue, while conferencing and exhibitions make up the largest chunk of the income at 22 per cent. The stadium is due to host Rugby Expo for the next three years.

In 2015, the stadium held 49 exhibitions and trade shows, 63 large conferences and 537 smaller conferences, while concerts involving Coldplay and Kings of Leon sold out with more than 40,000 fans each. According to Armstrong, the arena hosted 1.4m visitors across the year and is gearing up for a Rihanna concert in 2016.

Armstrong also indicated the importance of growing the club’s supporter base after the move, and revealed Wasps’ strategy for delivering a “great fan experience”. A Fan Village, which holds 6,000 people, is installed during every home match, and shows alternative rugby matches, hosts bands and provides other entertainment across seven hours.

He pointed to a focus on technology platforms the club was in the process of developing in a bid to attract and retain fans, closely mirroring a model developed by Manchester City Football Club.

“We arrived in the Midlands and took a few friends up the road with us, but essentially we knew nobody,” said Armstrong. “The main competitor is not Leicester or Northampton, the main competitor is the sofa and how we encourage people to come and experience our match day, as opposed to watching BT Sport and Sky Sports coverage.”

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Wasps Rugby Club is gearing up for further expansion following its acquisition of the Ricoh Arena, with a “state of the art” training ground and a 150,000sq ft (13,935sq metres) leisure facility in the pipeline.
'David Armstrong (centre-left) wants to
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