James Brent allays Plymouth Raiders' homelessness fears
PLYMOUTH Argyle owner James Brent has moved to allay Marjon Plymouth Raiders fears that they will be left homeless next summer by the redevelopment of their home, the Pavilions.
Local businessman Brent, credited with saving the Pilgrims from extinction last autumn, has signed a contract to buy the Pavilions from Plymouth City Council.
Brent plans to develop the city centre venue through his Five Directions Ltd company and will, among other improvements, refurbish the arena.
Raiders regularly play in front of sell-out crowds of 1,400 at the Pavilions and Raiders chairman Bob Widdecombe is concerned that being re-housed at the start of the 2013/14 season, albeit temporarily, will affect the progress the club have made.
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But Brent said: "The intention of the Pavilions rebuild is to improve not detract.
"We're obviously very proud and conscious of what Plymouth Raiders have achieved, and understand Raiders want to play at the arena and the crowds they get.
"The impact, if any, won't be until the summer of 2014."
One possibility for Raiders could be the new sports hall at the Life Centre next to Home Park, but it would mean painstakingly bringing in temporary seating for individual games.
Even then, said Widdecombe, it would, at best, be able to cater for half the spectators Raiders are used to getting at the Pavilions.
Plymouth-born Widdecombe, who was awarded an MBE for his contribution to Crimestoppers and sport in the Queen's Birthday Honours List last weekend, said the uncertainty was having an unsettling affect on everyone at the club.
Widdecombe said: "It is quite worrying and a bit of a dampener after Raiders have just enjoyed the most successful and entertaining season in our history.
"Everyone who comes to see us play at the Pavilions, which holds 1,500, wants to come back, so we're never far off filling it.
"I know it's a way away yet, but obviously we budget for crowds and (Raiders coach) Gavin Love needs to know what he will be able to spend on new players."
Widdecombe added: "As I understand it, Mr Brent is planning to take out the existing ice rink and swimming pool areas and make the arena bigger.
"It would be cutting it fine for our fixtures.
"Hopefully, once I speak to Mr Brent we'll have a clearer picture of where we stand, but it is a worry, even at this stage."
Last season Raiders finished fourth in the BBL – British basketball's top tier – and were losing finalists in two cup competitions.