rob and ryan holding trophy

Wrexham renaissance: how Hollywood changed the Welsh city’s fortunes

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With the second series of Welcome to Wrexham set to premiere on Disney+ this week, we spoke to local business owners to find out more about the impact the series has had on this working-class city in North Wales

If you’re a sucker for an underdog story, the journey of historical market town Wrexham and its equally historic football club will be sure to pull at your heartstrings.

Before 2020, dark clouds lingered above Wrexham FC. The club, which is the third oldest professional football side in the world, was rooted in the National League, five divisions below the likes of Liverpool and Manchester United, and thanks to its ever-worsening financial woes, climbing up the football ladder seemed like an impossible task.

Enter: Hollywood duo Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenny, who teamed up to purchase the club in the hopes of helping it return to the English Football league — taking a camera crew along with them to document the journey.

The first series of the resulting documentary, Welcome to Wrexham, was met with great acclaim, receiving a whopping six Emmy nominations and a 91% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with episodes making an estimated £430,000 each (according to North Wales Live). But aside from the success of the series, Rob and Ryan’s takeover has also thrust the city into the limelight. And in an incredible turn of events, after a devastating elimination in the playoffs in the first series, the Welsh club has since been promoted to the English Football League after a 15-year absence.

Ahead of the release of the second series, we spoke to local businesses to see how Rob and Ryan’s investment has impacted the region.

Welcome to Wrexham has done so much to put Wrexham and the whole of North Wales on the map, and it’s about time,” says local business owner Josh Walker. “The beautiful North Wales coast truly deserves some attention.”

ryan and rob at stadium
Gemma Thomas Photography

Josh owns Simply Seaviews, a holiday rental service based in North Wales and Wrexham offering cottages and glamping holidays to locals and tourists, alike. Since April this year, there’s been a 44% increase in the number of visitors arriving to North Wales by rail (according to Trainline), and Josh has enjoyed a significant increase in bookings around the North Wales coast. “This summer we’ve seen a ton of holiday cottage bookings around the area, and in particular we’ve seen that searches for holidays in Criccieth (a seaside town near Wrexham) have grown by 77% in the last year.”

And these tourists are from all over, too. According to the visitor book in the Visitor Information Centre, 30% of visitors that have left entries are from North America (including Mexico), while 33% are from Europe and the UK with a few travellers from down under, as well.

Wrexham isn’t letting this growing interest go to waste. Lead member of Wrexham Council Mark Pritchard recognises the increased levels of confidence and intrigue across the board, commenting, “We believe that, away from football matters, there are significant plans in place to capture the economic impact that develops from the increased number of visitors.”

The historical market town was one of the winners of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee City Status competition in 2022, becoming Wales’s seventh city. This updated status means that Wrexham can attract more major projects and it now has more access to opportunities to develop its infrastructure and services.

The local bar and restaurant scene has been on the up, too. Big players in the sector have been setting their sights on Wrexham, such as The Fat Boar Group, which took over its latest site in the city centre in 2022 and has opened The CarniBoar, a new steakhouse and bar. Meanwhile, established pubs such as The Turf have been inundated with overseas visitors, with owner Wayne Jones noting that the pub’s day trade has “practically doubled”.

Meanwhile, Wrexham Council has recently refurbished the city’s Visitor Centre, which now has triple the floorspace than before and an ethos centred around showcasing local food, produce and Welsh gifts, as well as plenty of information on attractions and things to do across the whole area.

VIC Wrexham
Visitor Information Centre, Wrexham

The council is also developing a Football Museum, set to open in 2026. The museum will celebrate Welsh football, particularly highlighting Wrexham’s historic achievements and the heritage of the area. All of this has been done with the hope of keeping tourists entertained during their visits to the stadium, but what happens when the hype around the football club fades?

“The town can’t dine out on its celebrity connections forever,” says Josh. “Instead, it needs to be ready to benefit from its location and demonstrate that it’s worth visiting for an overnight stay – not just when Wrexham FC are playing at home.”

It’s clear that Ryan and Rob’s purchase has made a huge impact on Wrexham, and the city is doing all it can it capitalise on its new-found recognition, but Josh warns of the challenges that fame can bring to a small community. “If the second series sees Wrexham continue to attract tourists from across the globe, we’ve got to be ready to cater to the crowds,” he says.

The second series of Welcome to Wrexham premieres on Disney+ on September 13, 2023.

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