Bobsleigh hopes crash as stadium bids fail the test

Great Britain's GBR-1, pilot Nicola Minichiello, center, and brakeman Gillian Cooke, (behind her) react after crashing during the women's two-man bobsled competition final at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics in Whistler, British Columbia, Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2010. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
Great Britain's GBR-1, pilot Nicola Minichiello, center, and brakeman Gillian Cooke, (behind her) react after crashing during the women's two-man bobsled competition final at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics in Whistler, British Columbia, Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2010. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

A TEAM aiming to develop a bobsleigh track as part of a sports and lifestyle academy in Sheffield spoke this week of its disappointment of the ambition falling through for the former Woodbourn Road athletics stadium.

With Sheffield-based world champion bobsleigh driver Nicola Minichiello helping to steer the project, it has withdrawn its bid and says it is now looking elsewhere.

The future of the Attercliffe stadium, which closed last July because the council could no longer afford to run it, remains unclear.

The bid by sports activity company Team Active Fun is out of the picture and, after assessing two other submissions, the council says “no sufficiently robust or sustainable use for the site has been put forward”. Now the site has been mothballed for at least six months.

The two other bids were for the £3m Sento initiative – an international standard martial arts centre including Japanese-style gardens – and a community sports and cultural events venue, whose backers were not revealed publicly.

The council marketed Woodbourn Road for sport and recreation, looking for a new use that is sustainable and making clear that no council financial help would be available.

Coun Helen Mirfin-Boukouris, cabinet member for business, jobs and growth, said the council disappointed that an alternative use has not been found. “Three bids came forward and we greatly appreciate the work that bidders put into preparing them. We have been speaking with the bidders since the summer as the process does take time, and we have to be thorough in our assessment of their proposals and how they might work in the future.

“One bidder decided to withdraw following discussions of our requirements and the other two were assessed as part of our selection process. However under closer scrutiny, unfortunately the business cases presented to us were not robust enough for us to have complete confidence in handing over the site and we have now met with bidders to tell them that we are not able to move forward.”

Team Active Fun, whose other directors are sports manager Jo Manning and marketer Gerardine Togher, said its plans included the UK’s third dry bobsleigh push track, a multi-sports programme and a sports and lifestyle academy.

The company said delays in the bidding process and the declining condition of the site – refuted by the council – had resulted in missing market opportunities and rising remedial site costs.

Nicola Minichiello said: “My fellow co-founders and directors have worked tirelessly since June developing our plans. We expected a few delays. However, this seven-month process has resulted in us missing the opportunity to start earning a return on proposed investment which we would find difficult to regain.

“Whilst we are disappointed with Woodbourn Road, 2012 is an important year for us and we are still progressing with our bobsleigh plans at a different location. We have developed a bobsleigh youth programme here in Sheffield which will commence later this month at the first Winter Youth Olympics in Innsbruck.”