Athletics the ‘top priority’ at Woodburn

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Woodbourn Road athletics stadium - the replacement for Don Valley - is due to reopen on October 6.

It will be a big test for the council, which has pledged to ensure Sheffield will continue to have the facilities to inspire the Jessica Ennis-Hills of the future, albeit without the landmark surroundings.

The refurbishment programme extends to deep cleaning of the track, a new infield, better floodlights and new seats in the grandstand.

Sports and other equipment are being moved from Don Valley ready for their use by the City of Sheffield Athletics Club, Hallamshire Harriers and other athletes.

Woodbourn Road, run by the council until its closure in 2011, will now be financed, staffed and maintained by Sheffield Hallam University.

Hallam students will use the venue.

The deal followed criticism from Toni Minichiello, the coach of Jessica Ennis-Hill, about the closure of Don Valley and his fears that Woodbourn Road would be a far from adequate replacement. The council believes it is filling the gap and points out that while athletics often competed with the likes of rugby league and other events at Don Valley, it will be the priority at Woodbourn Road.

The council had committed £70,000 towards Woodbourn Road’s operational costs on the basis that an athletics club would take it over.

Now the money is going to a fund to nurture promising athletes.