Kirklees Council has promised the restored George Hotel will have a “fitting tribute” to the building’s history as the birthplace of rugby league.
Plans for the restoration of the grade II-listed hotel, which shut down in 2013, are well underway.
However, those plans don’t include the creation of a National Rugby League Museum, which had been the pledge when the council teamed up with Rugby League Cares, the charity arm of the Rugby Football League in 2020.
The council says the hotel-museum plan wasn’t financially viable and would put an unacceptable burden on council taxpayers.
That led to a row between the council and Rugby League Cares and though the council suggested an alternative location in the £210 million Cultural Heart no firm offer has been made.
There’s been a stand-off since the end of last year which prompted Huddersfield Unlimited, a business-led group which promotes the town’s interests, to step in.
The group has urged to two sides to come up with a compromise to ensure the museum isn’t lost to Huddersfield altogether.
Rugby League Cares says the ball is very much in the council’s court and that “nothing has changed” as they await a specific proposal from the council.
Now the council has set out its position in a lengthy statement requested by Huddersfield Hub.
This is the statement in full:
Clr Graham Turner, Cabinet member for growth and regeneration, says: “Our plans to bring the iconic George Hotel back to life are well underway.
“We’re working hard to celebrate and conserve its heritage, and looking into partnerships that could lead to the George reopening as a hotel under new, quality management.
“We aim to reopen this beautiful, historic building in 2024 – and in the right way, so that when it reopens its doors they’re reopened for good.
“The impact of the pandemic on the hospitality industry meant we had to give careful consideration of our investments on behalf of local taxpayers.
“It became clear that a combined hotel and museum within the refurbished George Hotel would not be financially viable without an ongoing cost to Kirklees residents.
“But Huddersfield is the birthplace of rugby league and the sport is an essential part of our heritage. That’s why we’ve offered to give a home to the museum as part of our major regeneration plans in the heart of the town.
“Over the next few years, we will be building a new Cultural Heart in Huddersfield, which includes a new library, gallery, food court and entertainment space to draw people into the town.
“We have a unique opportunity to include the Rugby League Museum in one of the biggest regeneration plans in the country.
“By being part of the plans for the new Cultural Heart of Huddersfield, the museum would benefit from a new home that can both accommodate the museum as well as being flexible enough to incorporate additional activity to draw in fans and visitors over the long-term. Crucially, this plan would be financially sustainable for the long-term.
“At the same time, we will ensure that the refurbishment of the George Hotel includes a fitting tribute to the birthplace of rugby league that is in-keeping with its importance in the history of the game.
“And there will be a meaningful link between the hotel and the museum, which would be located just a short walk away from each other.”