Stadium where Jess Ennis trains is to be closed
News that Sheffield City Council has confirmed its decision to close Don Valley Stadium has been met with sadness and disappointment from many athletics stars and fans of the sport.
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 considered to make the needed £500m budget cuts.
Olympic heptathlon champion Ennis reacted to the news on Twitter, simply saying: “So sad to lose Don Valley Stadium! Where it all started for me. Great memories.”
Louise Damen, who won the women’s race at the Saucony English National Cross Country Championships last Saturday, also tweeted, saying: “Sad to hear about the closure of Don Valley Stadium. Happy memories from there. Home of two of my English Schools titles as a youngster.”
With Don Valley Stadium closing, the Council plans to refurbish and reopen the smaller Woodburn Road Athletics Stadium, which is less than half a mile away and can be operated for £70,000 a year.
The facilities at the two tracks are claimed by the Council to be the same, with Woodburn Road offering a dedicated throws area, which Don Valley doesn’t have.
Don Valley will stay open until September, with the Council confirming the city is exploring “regeneration options” for the site.
In a statement, councillor Isobel Bowler, the cabinet member for culture, sport and leisure, said: “No one wants to close Don Valley but we can no longer afford to subsidise it by £700,000 a year. Over the next 10 years, the council will save over £6m - a huge amount of money.
“We will still provide a home for athletics at Woodbourn, less than a mile away and will cost less than £70,000 a year to run. This approach has been endorsed by the sport’s governing body and the city’s two main athletics clubs are already engaged in constructive discussions with the Council about the transfer. Woodbourn will technically offer the same quality of track and field facilities and in fact will provide uninterrupted access for our local clubs.”
In justifying the decision, a statement from the Council continued to read: “Unfortunately, there’s little prospect of major athletics events returning to Don Valley Stadium - the only reason that justifies a stadium of this size - in the foreseeable future and Sheffield has not had a major athletics event since 2007 (Grand Prix events are currently exclusive to Birmingham and London). Woodbourn, as it has in the past, will cater for all city, schools and regional athletics events.”
£50m of cuts are to be made by Sheffield City Council in 2013-14, which adds to the £140m cuts in the past two years.
» Read the thoughts of the AW editor on the matter in his blog post here