Panthers may be demolished for seniors’ high-riseTHE Panthers Newcastle club site in King Street could become an ‘‘over-55s living’’ complex under its new owners, The Wests Group.

Wests chief executive Philip Gardner formally announced the club’s intention to buy the property on Wednesday.

The announcement followed a March 20 report in the Newcastle Herald, when Panthers chief Warren Wilson confirmed a ‘‘handshake agreement’’ to sell the Newcastle property.

Mr Gardner said Wests had paid about $19million for the Newcastle site, which covered more than 14,000square metres on the corner of King Street and Union Street, Newcastle.

Stressing that long-term plans were yet to be finalised, Mr Gardner said people should be aware that ‘‘somewhere in this process it could lead to demolition’’ of the existing club building.

‘‘The over-55s living is a natural part of the evolution of The Wests Group,’’ Mr Gardner said.

‘‘We can go to at least 15 storeys in Newcastle, and while there will always be a club somewhere on the site, it could involve demolition and rebuilding.’’

Mr Gardner said Wests saw great value in the potential re-use of the Newcastle site.

‘‘The inner-city location provides an excellent expansion opportunity for the WestsGroup, and reflects our confidence in the city.’’

He said the club was looking at over-55s accommodation in line with a state government ‘‘SEPP’’ (or State Environmental Planning Policy) for seniors’ housing.

Mr Gardner said Wests members would vote on the Newcastle purchase at an extraordinary general meeting on Sunday, May 31, at Wests New Lambton headquarters.

He expected that vote, and a corresponding vote of Panthers members to sell the Newcastle club, would go ahead without any problems.

Mr Gardner said Panthers put its two Hunter clubs – Cardiff and Newcastle – up for sale in 2013, and Wests put in expressions of interest for both.

Panthers eventually accepted a Wests offer of about $11million for Cardiff, but it rejected the club’s offer for Newcastle and ‘‘went seeking interest from other parties’’, Mr Gardiner said.

‘‘Then they came back to us, we went up a bit on what we were offering, they came down a bit on what they wanted, and we eventually reached a compromise.’’

Mr Gardner said the sale was a ‘‘walk in, walk out’’ deal that gave Wests ownership of the land, the club and its assets, which included 160 poker machine licences that ‘‘stay with the venue’’.

He said the land had recently been valued at $18.2million so Wests were happy with the price they paid.

The sale guaranteed entitlements for all of the Newcastle club staff and redundancies were being offered to those with more than 10years service.

Historically, the Newcastle club out-traded its Cardiff counterpart, but Mr Gardner said it appeared that Newcastle was earning about $1million a year before income tax and depreciation, while the comparable figure for Cardiff, under Wests’ management, was about $2.5million.

Mr Gardner said a memorandum of understanding governing the sale was available on the Wests website or from its New Lambton headquarters.

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