LOCATING the Millennium Stadium in the centre of Cardiff means the Welsh Rugby Union is “giving money away”, the man behind a major study into its economic impact said yesterday.
Dr Calvin Jones said the stadium was built in the wrong place for the union to be able to maximise profits.
In a report into the effects of the Millennium Stadium on the Welsh economy, the WRU said its stadium brought in millions of pounds, supported thousands of jobs and attracted more visitors than any other tourist attraction in Wales.
But one of the co-authors of the report, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff and Wales: The Economic Impact, said building the stadium outside Cardiff city centre would have made more business sense to the WRU.
When the Millennium Stadium was built for the 1999 Rugby World Cup, there were some quarters calling for it to be built outside Cardiff city centre.
A site in Bridgend was mooted as a potential location for a new stadium when it was established that the old National Stadium would need to be replaced for Wales to be able to hold modern sporting events.
In the end, the WRU opted to redevelop the city centre site, building the £130m Millennium Stadium.
Dr Jones, of Econactive, the research company which wrote the report for the WRU, said a site such as Leckwith, where Cardiff City are building their new ground, would have been a more sensible option for the WRU.
Doing that would have enabled the WRU to offer more services, such as bars and car parking, to fans attending matches at the stadium.
He said, “If I was building a new stadium I would build it with a maximum amount of complementary services.
“I would build a peripheral stadium, have a big car park and Wales’ biggest bar there to make sure I catch as much revenue as possible.
“If I the WRU was looking to maximise revenues I would make another decision, this stadium is much closer to the city centre.
“In the long term, you couldn’t have the stadium in the city centre because you are giving money away.”
Roger Lewis, WRU chief executive, said the debate over the location of the stadium was not relevant because it has been built in the centre of Cardiff and would not be moving.
Mr Lewis said, “The reality is that we are where we are, and it’s hugely successful. People come to the stadium because of its city centre location.
“They can come to the city and have a few beers, stay in a hotel, eat in the restaurants.
“If you talk to rugby league people, it’s a big weekend for them. The same with the speedway.
“This is such a jewel for us that I think our political fathers should be getting behind it, it’s such a great opportunity for Wales.”
Mr Lewis added, “The stadium is now recognised around the world as an iconic and modern image of Wales.
“We all know it is as the heart and soul of Welsh rugby but the magnificent Joe Calzaghe unification world title fight at the weekend proved how it works so well as a multi event stadium.
“It truly is a magnificent asset which the Welsh Rugby Union is proud to own and operate for the good of rugby and the benefit of the nation as a whole.”