DURHAM Cricket Club’s cash crisis has been hit for six.
The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has agreed a loan of up to £2.8million to complete improvements at the Chester-le-Street ground.
The club said the changes are vital to allow it to continuing to stage high-profile international games, such as this summer’s Ashes Test against Australia.
The LEP board has agreed to release £1.2million from its North East investment fund immediately, while the club’s ability to access the rest will depend on it coming forward with a proposal for capital investment and repaying the loan.
LEP chairman Paul Woolston said: “The initial funding means new permanent seating can go ahead immediately to complete the world-class stadium and facilities, confirming Durham as a first-class location for international cricket.
“The stadium will now have a full complement of top-quality seats in front of the magnificent backdrop of Lumley Castle.
“We look forward to the Ashes Test match this summer and the other high-profile international events which have already agreed to come to Durham between now and 2016.”
Mr Woolston added: “We need the ECB to demonstrate the same resolve and now bring a full programme of the very best Test cricket to Durham right through to 2020 and beyond.
“Durham County Cricket Club is an important asset for the North East, and upgrading the stadium will attract global, national and local visitors to the area.”
Durham chairman Clive Leach said: “We are very grateful to have the backing of the North East LEP, having had agreement in principle from Durham County Council last week that they will be supporting us with investment of £2.8million.
“The club needs and welcomes the backing of these local stakeholders in order to ensure that international cricket in Durham can be preserved, something that is absolutely crucial to the long-term sustainability of the club.”