Stadium boss is betting on bright future

THE FORMER owner of Sunderland Greyhound Stadium has talked to the Echo about the future of the track.

Kevin Wilde sold the stadium to bookmakers William Hill in a deal worth 9.4million, it was announced this week.

But the Hetton-born businessman will continue to run the track and will help its new owners buy a chain of greyhound stadia.

Mr Wilde also revealed to the Echo that he had had about half a dozen offers from people interested in buying the track, but that William Hill's bid was "first class".

He said: "These are really exciting times. I think it's a great opportunity for everyone involved in the stadium to be able to go forward.

"I've got a fantastic opportunity and I'm delighted to be involved with a company such as William Hill. My brief is to help them acquire other stadiums.

"But it hasn't changed me. I'm still chomping at the bit to be at work on a morning and I'm looking forward to the future."

He added: "I had a lot of people knocking. I must have had six approaches, but the approach from William Hill was absolutely first class."

Mr Wilde said customers at Sunderland Greyhound Stadium would not notice any instant changes.

He said: "There are no immediate effects at all on the stadium, but I think by being part of a huge plc there will be lots of benefits."

William Hill has praised the Sunderland stadium's existing management for the "fantastic" job they have done in the past and gave them their wholehearted support.

It said the track would continue to run as normal.

The greyhound stadium won the Northern Track of the Year award earlier this year and missed out on being named best national track by just one vote.

Mr Wilde bought the track in 1994 and also owned Brough Park Greyhound Stadium on Tyneside until he sold it last year.

The track attracts about 150,000 people a year and attendances have soared in recent years.

Sunderland is the first greyhound stadium bought by William Hill as part of its plans to expand the business.

The purchase was announced in a report which revealed the company's half-year profits.

It showed the firm, which has more than 1,500 outlets, saw a 47 per cent surge in turnover to 1.59billion in the 26 weeks to July 2.