Anger at stadium closure decision

News on-line 24-hours a day.
News on-line 24-hours a day.

HUNDREDS of people have signed petitions protesting at the decision to close Sheffield’s Woodbourn Road athletics stadium.

HUNDREDS of people have signed petitions protesting at the decision to close Sheffield’s Woodbourn Road athletics stadium.

The stadium is due to close at the end of this month after Sheffield City Council decided the venue was too expensive to run and maintain.

But Del Fletcher, who organised the protest petitions with partner Rachel Poole, said: “A lot of people are very angry about this, and rightly so.

“Here we are in the run-up to the Olympics and the chance of more young people getting interested and involved in athletics, and Sheffield is getting rid of a vital facility.

“We hear a lot of talk about the Olympic legacy and what happens after the Games, but that certainly doesn’t seem to be the case here.’’

Mr Fletcher has two daughters who use the track to train with Hallamshire Harriers and other clubs also train at the stadium.

Schools competitions are also held there and at last week’s Primary Schools Championships, close to 200 parents signed a petition against the closure.

That has already been handed in to the council and a second petition was organised at last night’s secondary cchools event.

Mr Fletcher, whose partner Rachel is athletics co-ordinator at Ecclesall Primary School, said: “This is not about one or two elite athletes, it is about young people from all over the city having somewhere to get involved in athletics.

“Also, Don Valley is not always available because Rotherham United play there and there are other events which take priority.’’

Hallamshire Harriers coach Keith Whitelam said: “If Woodbourn Road does close, it will mean Sheffield loses an outstanding training facility for athletics.

“We have groups of 30-plus there on Tuesday evenings and it is as good a place for training as you can get.

“A lot of money has been spent on upgrading the stadium over recent years. The track has been resurfaced and the throwing cages have been replaced.

“Now it seems that investment if going to be thrown away. You have to wonder exactly how much money has been spent on somewhere which is now going to close.

“I understand one of the problems is that work needs to be done on the floodlights, and that might be costly, but it really will be a terrible shame for the city to lose this stadium.

“Even if we can use Don Valley for the same money, we would still prefer to stay at Woodbourn Road.’’

Paul Billington, the council’s director of culture and environment, said: “The city Council has to make £1.5 million savings in its culture and sport budget this year. This required a detailed examination of all services.

“Woodbourn Road Stadium is relatively expensive for the level of visits it attracts and it also requires significant capital investment.

“What’s more, the city is already very well provided for in terms of athletics facilities with three other venues available, two of which are of international standard.

“The council decided in March that Woodbourn should close. Since then, it has worked to ensure that users of Woodbourn are offered alternative and affordable provision elsewhere in the city. This includes schools and club activities. This will result in increased athletic activity at Don Valley Stadium, the English Institute of Sport and the new track and field facilties at Chaucer School.”

Woodbourn Road was the first of the new wave of sporting facilities in Sheffield. Opened in 1987, it boasted the city’s first all-weather track.

A new track at Chaucer School in Parson Cross will be primarily a schools’ facility with community use a secondary priority. And athletics organisers are concerned that the Chaucer facilities, due to be completed in August, do not offer a like-for-like replacement for Woodbourn Road.