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Jets may take flight

CHESTER Jets could end up moving to Liverpool if they want to stay in British basketball's top flight.

CHESTER Jets could end up moving to Liverpool if they want to stay in British basketball's top flight.

That's the stark warning from club official Joe Lofthouse after plans to build their own arena in Ellesmere Port were rejected.

He said: 'There is pressure from the league for all the teams to play in 2,000-capacity arenas with television access.

'We don't have that at the Northgate and although we all want to stay in this area because it's our home, circumstances may dictate the club might have to consider a move in the future to survive at the top.'

Jets have been planning a return to the Port for the past two years.

They originally had to leave the town after the seating was removed from the EPIC.

But a combination of planning delays, funding problems and, in Lofthouse's opinion, poor advice from both the Epicentre Partnership and the borough council have meant the project has failed to get off the ground.

Early plans earmarked a £3.7m facility on Cromwell Road, which would include four courts, paid for by £3m of lottery cash and £700,000 of matched funding.

Lofthouse said: 'The project was then downgraded to a £3m three-court centre and some pressure was introduced to move to the old greyhound stadium.'

The issue came to a head in July when Jets' application to Epicentre -­ the body formed to apply for projects to regenerate Ellesmere Port town centre ­- was turned down.

Lofthouse said: 'The main reason given was that our proposals did involve employment opportunities in the town.

'We feel badly let down. Ellesmere Port would have had a facility to be proud of and employment had never been raised as a prerequisite of the bid.'

He added: 'The council and Epicentre have failed the town and we have been badly advised by both parties.

'The club is now talking to private parties about funding but this often creates problem for lottery bids. We could still get a new arena in Ellesmere Port, but I'm not optimistic.'

The appropriate council officer was unavailable for comment yesterday.

Steve Cranmer, the Epicentre Partnership regeneration manager, said: 'We are very supportive of the scheme and initially allocated £5,000 to pay for a feasibility study, but on the occasion that the Jets made their second bid, we had received £8m worth of bids for £1m of funding and had to give priority to projects that most closely met our strategic aims.'


David Holmes
Chief News Reporter
David Norbury
Mike Fuller
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