Don Valley controversy causes concern in Sheffield
City of Sheffield AC says it has been assured by the local council that alternative facilities will be brought up to standard if it decides to close Don Valley Stadium.
The multi-use venue, which is used by Jessica Ennis and has hosted televised grand prix meetings, is Britain’s second-biggest athletics stadium, seating 25,000. However, the facility, which also includes a public gym and hosts live concerts, operates at a massive loss and bulldozing it to build on the land is one of several options that the the troubled local council is considering to make the needed £500m budget cuts.
A decision is expected at the beginning of March, although it is understood the venue would not be closed until after the next outdoor athletics season.
Ennis is just one of the high-profile figures to have expressed disappointment over the possible action, with Iwan Thomas and Jon Brown also noting their disappointment or outrage on Twitter.
However, others also took to the social networking site to discuss possible positives or alternatives. “So poss closure of Don Valley, sad but has to be viable,” tweeted Katharine Merry. “Cheaper to reopen close old stadium, invest & rename Jess Ennis Stadium ?
UKA last used the stadium in 2006 as other cities have put forward more attractive bids since. “As Sheffield has an indoor competition we do feel they are at least getting something as a city,” said a UKA spokesperson. “Every local authority who hosts one of our major events puts funding towards each event – it’s part of the bid process. This is the same in many sports.”
City of Sheffield AC members met with Paul Billington, director of culture and environment at Sheﬃeld City Council, on Monday and said they were given a verbal guarantee that Woodbourn Road’s track, which was closed in 2010, would be ready to use if the 22-year-old behemoth is demolished.
As much as Mike Corden, the chairman of City of Sheffield AC, hopes to see Don Valley remain open, he believes councillors will decide not to keep subsidising the running of the stadium to the tune of £700,000 a year.
“I don’t think we can bring enough influence to change the decision,” said Corden. “That will be made on hopefully sound financial reasons.”
He added: “I think because of the serious flack they’re going to get, with Jess winning the gold medal, if they did decide to close it and not have Woodbourn Stadium ready it would be catastrophic in terms of PR.”
The stadium is rarely used for athletics such is the cost – said by Corden to be £2000 per day – and the fact that is booked out for other events. The English Schools Athletic Association has held its outdoor championships there twice this millennium, but the Gateshead and Alexander Stadiums have worked out much cheaper than the approximately £100,000 Don Valley charged when it was last held there in 2009.
Hallamshire Harriers is another of several clubs that use Don Valley, but their chairman, Mike Theobald said: “I think a lot of our athletes they would rather return to Woodbourn Road than use Don Valley because it’s a multi-use stadium and very often athletes get relegated to the bottom of the pile.
“For small league meetings it was much more friendly than a cavernous stadium that seats 25,000 people and is not really ideal for hosting a Northern League meeting.”