Dave Whelan's outpouring of pride after stadium honour

For once, Dave Whelan was struggling for words, as he officially opened the new sports bar at the DW Stadium.

The one-time Wigan Athletic and Wigan Warriors owner has been recognised by the renaming of the old 'Rigaletto's' restaurant to 'Whelan's'.

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It will serve as a pre-match and post-match haven for fans to have a drink and a bite to eat.

The official opening of 'Whelan's' at the DW StadiumThe official opening of 'Whelan's' at the DW Stadium
The official opening of 'Whelan's' at the DW Stadium
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And the man himself admitted he was overcome with pride after cutting the ribbon.

"The sports bar is such a lovely place, and it's a wonderful gesture," he said.

"The new owners who have taken control have done a remarkable job.

"The place has changed, no question about that, they've spent quite a lot of money on it.

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"But it's changed for the better, and I'm looking for every Wigan supporter to go in there, and enjoy the experience, and feel a real pride in their town and their club."

The relaunch is part of a £1,000,000 revamp of the stadium and its facilities by club partners Sodexo.

Having built the stadium 23 years ago, it remains a special place for Whelan himself.

"It's a football ground and rugby ground that's so important to this town," he said.

"To me, those clubs, they are life and death here in Wigan.

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"When we built this stadium, Wigan Athletic played at Springfield, Wigan rugby played at Central Park.

"Both were struggling at the time, but putting them together, playing on the same pitch, has been a wonderful operation.

"I just love coming back, because I can see so much history around the place, and so much pride that the people of Wigan have got.

"They love Wigan Athletic, and they love Wigan rugby league, and why shouldn't we be proud of them?"

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Latics CEO Mal Brannigan added: “The name ‘Whelan’ is synonymous with success in sport, and especially here in Wigan.

"From taking over the football club in 1995, to getting into the Premier League, to winning the FA Cup...while also taking over the rugby league club, and helping to stabilise that organisation as well...I think it’s so important we acknowledge that achievement.

"To have the sports bar named after Dave Whelan is so important, especially with Rigaletto’s having been named after his dad’s old stage name.

"It’s such a good true-life story.”

Latics manager Leam Richardson said: "Anything at all that is dedicated to or rewards Mr Whelan for what he's done here is fantastic.

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"Obviously he's been a figurehead for so long, making a number of bolshy and successful decisions for the good of this club and this town.

"His family have also been there, and I've obviously worked under David (Sharpe) as well and tasted success.

"To come and share today, to watch him open Whelan's sports bar, is wonderful, because he deserves every credit.

"From where this football club was - and not just the football club, also the town and the rugby league club, and the stadium - to where he took it, speaks for itself.

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"He has just mentioned the FA Cup win again, that he hopes it's something we can repeat, which obviously piles the pressure on me and those managers who follow me!

"But it's testament to what he achieved and we'll strive to follow in those footsteps as well as we can."

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