The home of Newcastle United, St James’ Park, will be transformed into a rugby stadium for three fixtures between New Zealand, South Africa, Scotland and Pacific Islands Samoa and Tonga when England hosts the tournament in two years time.
At a meeting of city and business leaders held at the Civic Centre in Newcastle yesterday, the council’s interim director of investment and development, Stephen Savage, said their original forecast of a £14m economic uplift was now way short of what is expected to be gained.
He said: “When we estimated that it could bring in £14m, we only based this on figures for people staying for one night, so it’s not inconceivable that this figure could double.
“We made our predictions before we knew the teams and we’ve got the best teams in the tournament bar none.
“Hotels in the area are negotiating with the organisers already, with bed spaces already booked.”
Profits for local businesses needed to ensure St James’ Park is ready to host international rugby are also expected to run into tens of millions of pounds and one of the international teams will base itself in the region for the entire six week tournament period.
The event is the third largest sports event in the world and due to bring £2.1bn to the UK economy.
St James’ Park was chosen as a host venue earlier this year ahead of Sunderland’s Stadium of Light.
It is another coup for city after last year it played host to football games as part of the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Between September 18 and October 31, 2015, Newcastle will see special “fan-zones” to watch the games on big screens, a volunteer programme similar to London 2012 and a Festival of Rugby for the arts, plus provision for grassroots clubs.
There will also be a launch event when tickets go on sale in 2014.
The council’s task now is to ensure that visitors stay in the region for two or three days particularly between the New Zealand versus Tonga game on October 9 and Samoa and Scotland on October 10.
Leader of the city council Nick Forbes said: “A conservative estimate is £14m from spending power.
“Although New Zealand and South Africa have huge fan bases that will be travelling with them, so that original estimate is certainly going to be a lot higher.” Former England player and veteran of three world cups, Dean Richards, director of rugby for Newcastle Falcons, said: “It could be a fantastic catalyst to support the demands of rugby, not just at the top level but most importantly at the grass roots level.”
Andrew Fletcher, general manager of the Marriot Hotel, Gosforth Park,said he is already working towards accommodating one of the international teams.
During games, St James’ Park will be stripped of its official sponsor logos and replaced with those of the Inernational Rugby Board.
During 2012, Olympic football games contributed to a 15% increase in visitors to Newcastle.