MP NICK Clegg has called for urgent talks on plans to close Sheffield’s Don Valley Stadium – and called for the council to consider taking steps to preserve the city’s reputation for sport.
The Attercliffe stadium is used by stars including London 2012 Olympic heptathlon champion Jess Ennis for training, but needs a £700,000 subsidy and will soon require £1.6 million of refurbishment.
It was among facilities built for the 1991 World Student Games and resulting debt is still being paid off at a rate of more than £20 million a year until 2024.
Mr Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister and Liberal Democrat MP for Sheffield Hallam, said: “Given these facilities helped produce an Olympic champion, Sheffield Council should think again and put more effort into making it financially viable.
“All local politicians need to work together, along with Sheffield’s sporting community, to see if we can save the stadium from demolition. I, for one, am willing to put party politics aside in the interests of our city.
“Questions should be asked about why Sheffield finds itself in this situation. Whereas similar sporting facilities in other cities are not under threat, the Don Valley Stadium could close, despite the fact it is a world-class facility.
“We have to listen to the sporting community who have said not enough has been done to promote the use of this iconic stadium.
“It would be wrong to tear down Don Valley Stadium without giving a second thought to preserving Sheffield’s reputation as a great City of Sport.”
Plans to close Don Valley – which would be partially-replaced as a training facility by a revamped Woodbourn Road athletics track – follow an announcement that Sheffield’s Ski Village will not be rebuilt after a devastating fire last year.
Coun Bryan Lodge, council cabinet member for finance, said: “If Don Valley Stadium does close, we will still have some of the UK’s best sports facilities at the English Institute of Sport and the reopened Woodbourn Stadium.
“It is inaccurate to say the debt we are still paying off is from the World Student Games, because it has been renegotiated over the years to provide more money for other things.
“You could say the facilities have been re-mortgaged rather than not paid off.”
WHAT YOU’VE BEEN SAYING ONLINE:
“I can’t believe this council is considering getting rid of yet another valuable asset to the city.
“The stadium brings in a lot of trade to the city, paralympics, pop concerts etc.
“There would be even more if we had an airport of course.
Let’s have our airport back, an Ikea and Next store, save the Ski slope and the Don Valley stadium – they all bring in visitors and growth (money) to the city, especially airports.”
“Unless it’s making a profit, then close it and rebuild something else of more use to the public – maybe a big Next store, but, as always, it’s never this council’s fault for wasting money, but the governments.”
“It might make more money if they opened it to the general public who do not want to join a club or pay the fees to join the gym. Why can’t people pay on site to use facilities like swimming baths, for instance?
“Publicity and promotion would also help, which is something Sheffield Council is not very good at.”
“I have little interest in sport, but I cannot understand how it costs so much for a few people to chase a ball or run around a field.”