DCSIMG

Race is on for Sheffield’s Don Valley’s replacement

Pictured during their tour of the Woodburn Road Athletics Stadium are..LtoR.Alistair Copeland(Sport England),Heidi Bradley(England Athletics),Mike Corden(City of Sheffield Athletics Club),Cllr Isobel Bowler

Pictured during their tour of the Woodburn Road Athletics Stadium are..LtoR.Alistair Copeland(Sport England),Heidi Bradley(England Athletics),Mike Corden(City of Sheffield Athletics Club),Cllr Isobel Bowler

IT does not have the stature of Don Valley Stadium, but local and national sports organisations were united this week in welcoming plans to make Woodbourn Road the new home of Sheffield athletics.

Amid the furore over the impending demolition of the stadium built for the 1991 World Student Games, the race is on to ensure Woodbourn Road is ready for a seamless transition in September.

It will have an international standard eight lane floodlit track, with dedicated areas for field and throwing events, becoming a venue for club sessions, school competitions and regional events.

But first a refurbishment is needed.

The council has allocated £150,000 - and a similar amount is due to come from sports bodies.

In the longer term, former Sheffield MP and Sports Minister Richard Caborn believes up to £2.5m can be secured from non-council sources to really put Woodbourn on the map.

At present, though, the focus is on getting the place up to standard.

Certainly, it is not in the same league as Don Valley in terms of appearance, with a grandstand that can accommodate only a fraction of the 10,000 spectators who could take their seats under the landmark glass fibre canopy roof half a mile away.

Yet athletes will have this place to themselves - as opposed to sharing it with other sportsmen and women - and the track is the same size.

After sharing the dismay over the proposed loss of Don Valley, local athletics clubs want to see Woodbourn Road emerge a winner.

Mike Corden, who chairs City of Sheffield Athletics Club, said it was committed to working with all parties to ensure track and field facilities were available for community use through to the needs of international athletes. “It is envisaged that the refurbished arena will be the first stage of a development plan that, over a period of time, will incorporate significant additional facilities,” he said.

Efforts currently centred on meeting the September deadline, with available finance used to create “a first class track and field footprint that allows all future developments to be considered”.

Charles Johnston, property director of Sport England, said it was recognised that the closure of Don Valley Stadium was a difficult decision for the council. “However this is now an opportunity for all of us to work together to ensure Woodbourn Road provides Sheffield athletes with continued access to good facilities.”

England Athletics are also committed to Woodbourn Road, its chief executive Chris Jones pointing to the need for “a robust and realistic business plan that will generate enough revenue to ensure long term financial viability”.

Council cabinet member Isobel Bowler said reopening Woodbourn was “a rational and pragmatic response” to unprecedented council cuts.

There was already a high quality track and the prospect of “uninterrupted access to first class facilities. Alongside the English Institute of Sport, a reopened Woodbourn will give the city some of the finest athletics facilities in the UK.”

 

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