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Council steps in to save Recs' future
Monday 1st February 2010

An historic sports ground has been saved from closure after St Helens Council stepped in to secure its future.

Ruskin Drive was under threat of the axe because its management company is struggling to meet rising costs of running the venue.

After learning of the plight of the famous sports ground - which includes a cricket field and rugby pitch – senior councillors have agreed that the local authority should take on a 99 year lease of the 30 acre site, safeguarding its future. The decision was taken at a meeting of St Helen's Council's top brass following what officials described as 'detailed assessment’ of the deal's terms.

It means the council will take on responsibility from Ruskin Leisure for the venue's pitches, fields and changing facilities. However, Ruskin Leisure will retain control of its on site Oasis fitness centre, social club and function room operations.

Council leader Brian Spencer said: "Following an approach from the company, the council was concerned that this famous facility would be lost to the borough. Having given it a lot of consideration we thought it appropriate to step in and are very confident that a strategy can be put together for the long term future of the playing fields.

"This is a great opportunity to step in and safeguard this facility. Ruskin provides a key leisure facility and the council has an extremely good record of managing sports and leisure facilities.

"Ruskin has provided facilities for a long time and has always been held in high affection for its historic links with Pilkington when it was used by many of their staff. "Using our expertise in this type of facility we further aim to make it a viable and enhanced leisure offer."

In its hey day as an athletics venue in the 1960s and 70s the ground played host to some of the most famous sports personalities from across the UK, including Olympic medallists. St Helens Recs itself provided players for Lancashire, namely Mike Beddow, Gerry Houlton, England Test bowler Ken Shuttleworth and John Lyon, who sadly died recently.

Currently, the grounds are used by St Helens Recs Cricket Club, Ruskin Rugby Union Club, and as a training base for St Helens RLFC.

The land at Ruskin remains under the ownership of the glass giants, of which Ruskin Leisure is a subsidiary. The company blamed changes in social habits, increased legislation and regulation and dwindling sports participation on its difficulties.