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York St John announces major acquisition of sports park and theatre

York St John University has acquired the sports park on Haxby Road and the Joseph Rowntree Theatre from Nestlé as part of a major enhancement of its sports and performing arts facilities. 

The name for the sports facilities was unveiled as ‘York St John University Sports Centre Nestlé Rowntree Park’ with the Joseph Rowntree Theatre name retained. The purchase of the land to the north of Nestlé includes playing fields, a bowling green, tennis courts and allotments. The University intends to work with current users to enable them to continue to benefit from the excellent facilities.

Paul Grimwood, CEO and Chairman Nestlé UK & Ireland said of the deal:

“On the 150th anniversary of Rowntree’s, we are delighted to entrust the legacy of the sports park and the theatre to York St John University. The sports park is one of the best sporting facilities in the city and the University is in a strong position to not only maintain this high standard but to enhance further for existing users, the local community and students.”

Professor David Fleming, Vice Chancellor of York St John University said:

“This acquisition will provide fantastic new facilities for the University within a fifteen minute walk of the campus and will build upon recent successes reflected by the quality and popularity of our provision. These new facilities will complement our investment in teaching resources, accommodation and partnership activity.”

Nestlé felt York St John University were the ideal fit for the sports park and theatre, ensuring even more accessibility to the local community while sensitive to the legacy created by the Rowntree’s family. The acquisition supports the University’s strategy to build on the quality of its provision and reputation, coupled with a commitment to continued community engagement.  

The acquisition is part of the University’s longer term investment strategy. York St John University is one of the city’s great success stories, contributing an estimated £51 million annually to the city’s economy and is an increasingly popular choice for students. Applications for 2012 entry have risen by 11%, which represents the highest growth amongst universities based in the north of England. One of the fastest developing areas of activity for York St John University is within health and life sciences and the University has a long tradition of provision within the performing arts. The new facilities will also bring benefits to the whole student community, which has a strong record for involvement in volunteering, partnership, club and society activity.

York St John University and Nestlé have also announced establishing the ‘Nestlé Scholarship’, an annual award for a student who will receive funding to assist in their study. More details will be made in the near future.

Dave Findlay, Vice President Student Activities of York St John University Students’ Union said:

“The Students’ Union is really excited about this enhancement to the facilities. We already excel in sport activity and the new provision will improve our participation and performance further. We have a fantastic reputation amongst our sports clubs and societies for our community atmosphere and now fixtures can be held on one site which will contribute towards a stronger, more inclusive environment.”

Dan Shrimpton, Managing Director at Joseph Rowntree Theatre said: 

“The Joseph Rowntree Theatre Limited has spent the last eleven years transforming the venue into a state of the art performance space. We look forward to working with York St John University and are delighted that the future of the theatre as a fantastic venue for the community of York has been secured.”

The Joseph Rowntree Theatre is an art deco style community performance space which celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2010. It was built by the Joseph Rowntree Village Trust (now Joseph Rowntree Foundation) as a venue to provide great quality, reasonably-priced entertainment for the people of York. Today, now run by the Joseph Rowntree Theatre Ltd, a registered charity, it is the venue of choice of more than 30 local performing groups, and is staffed by more than 150 passionate volunteer supporters, both front of house and backstage. The huge range of shows produced by its hirers stretches from musical theatre to ballet, opera to pantomime, and brass bands to traditional drama. Over the past decade, more than £280,000 has been invested in the upgrading and upkeep of its facilities, with full auditorium refurbishment, and fully up to date sound and lighting systems. 

The sports field land was bought in parts between 1912 and 1915 and was previously part of Mille Crux farm, the name meaning ‘thousand crosses’.

For further information please contact Amy Hall, PR & Communications Officer on T: 01904 876466 or E: a.hall@yorksj.ac.uk