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PostSubject: Newport back in business   Thu Jul 17, 2014 5:10 pm

Newport back in business
(South Wales Argus)
by Bob Radford

Speedway could well return to Newport in 1994 at an entirely new purpose built venue, writes Bob Radford.

Feasibility studies have been put to Newport Borough council by Gareth and Laurence Rogers for the sport's return, and the local authority are keen to see speedway back in a town with little spectator sport.

Speedway opened at Somerton Park in Newport in 1964 operating under the Mike Parker banner, initially with Charles Foote fronting the show.

The promotion passed to Wally Mawdsley in 1970, but Newport dropped out of Division One at the end of 1976 with the team switching into Bristol.

After one year of Division Two racing, speedway ceased at Somerton Park with Newport County FC then contesting European football and demanding higher and higher rental fees.

Since then, Newport County FC dropped out of the football league and eventually out of the town.

Somerton Park was increasingly run down as facilities failed to meet new and tougher safety standards. The now almost derelict stadium is due for demolition in September and former riders and fans met on Tuesday for a final walk around the track - although one end was terraced over - with considerable local publicity.

Next month Newport Borough Council will be asked to grand planning permission for a 42-acre virgin land site within the town boundaries.

But the local authority have already indicated that they want speedway back.

"My brother and I were both born and bred in Newport and apart from the rugby team, spectator sport is almost non-existent in the town," said Gareth Rogers, the former Eastbourne promoter and current Swindon presenter.

"The site would be privately financed and would involve an indoor sports arena which could also be used for exhibitions, and a hotel.. My brother Laurence has put together the financial and business side, while I have concentrated on PR and presentation.

"The plans have impressed the council, who know that there is a crying need for spectator sport in the town. A group of them came to Swindon for a meeting and were suitably impressed with what they saw at Blunsdon.

"The exact location of the site cannot be revealed at this stage and it is not the Coronation Park arena we originally looked at. But the site in question has good road access and car parking would be provided for.

"The capacity of the stadium would be between 5000 and 10000 at the upper end. It may also involve stock cars and or greyhound racing.

"My brother and I do not envisage being the speedway promoters, but we would be the lessees of the new stadium. Tim Swales at the BSPA has been kept informed and if all goes as we hope, then open meetings could be staged there in 1994 with a full season of league racing the following year.

Rogers is hopeful that former Newport Wasps star Phil Crump will accept an administrative and managerial post, and has already opened talks to that end.

"A great deal of work has already gone into this, and we have been inspired throughout by Mike Powell, who was paralysed riding at Weymouth. Unlike Laurence and I, he has lived in the town all of his life.

"We have had to throw out a few red herrings on possible sites to put people off the track. Now I firmly believe the Newport Council support our ideas and they insist they want speedway back.

"We already have new Wasps logos designed and along American lines can increase public awareness that speedway is returning. The key date is September 7, but after searching since 1986 I am now very optimistic that speedway is on its way back to Newport," said Rogers.

While the old Somerton Park track is obviously the source of many fond memories, there is equally no doubt that a purpose built track could be of a more conventional shape and offer much better racing that the old square circuit could ever do.

A few years after the closure of Newport Speedway, hopes were raised that the sport might return to Somerton Park. However speedway's revised safety regulations always made that unlikely with grand stand supports within two metres of the track.

Hopefully speedway can return to Newport and to Wales, where its initial introduction in 1964 under the Parker /Foote banner saw it as the best attended track in the country for two or three seasons.

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