Revamped stadium is up and running

Ana Jones is one of the youngsters who get to try out the newly refurbished Woodburn Road Stadium
Ana Jones is one of the youngsters who get to try out the newly refurbished Woodburn Road Stadium

Woodbourn Road athletics track - or rather Sheffield Hallam University City Athletics Stadium - is up and running.

It will never be a symbol of the City of Sport, host international events or stage concerts by U2, but the local athletics community has its own dedicated venue again.

Amid the controversy over Don Valley falling victim to council cuts after 22 years, the response from the main athletics clubs has been to make the most of the nearby alternative and to look forward to a place they do not have to share with other sports.

Mike Corden, who chairs City of Sheffield Athletics Club, said: “It’s a return to our spiritual home. We used this track up to its closure a couple of years ago and we were quite upset when we had to move to Don Valley. I can’t see having these facilities is going to hamper any Olympic aspirations. Now it requires the athletes of Sheffield to get behind these facilities because the facilities themselves don’t make champions.”

After a £325,000 revamp, the stadium is being run by Hallam University as part of a 50-year deal with the council.

Woodbourn will be used by elite athletes, including Jessica Ennis-Hill, City of Sheffield, Hallamshire Harriers, Hallam students, schools, community groups and the public.

Hallam sees it as an important addition to its portfolio as it seeks to compete with other universities for new students.

Director of estates and facilities Mark Swales said: “Along with our sport campus at the English Institute of Sport and the new sports park at Bawtry Road, we’re making sure that our students have access to the facilities they need.”

The track and field may be about the same, but the grandstand seats up to 150 as opposed to the 25,000 that could watch the action at Don Valley. Not that those seats were often full.

Jessica Ennis-Hill’s coach Tony Minichiello welcomed the refurbishment, but questioned whether nine-year-olds would be inspired by the surroundings, as the Olympic champion was by Don Valley.

And the campaign to save Don Valley from the bulldozers is not over, with The Friends of Don Valley Stadium looking for a judicial review of the council’s approach.

Community coach Rob Creasey said it was plain to see Woodbourn Road has the capacity to accommodate only a “tiny” audience and was “woefully lacking” in facilities. “There is not even enough seating for the students at a school sports day, let alone their families.”

There were no indoor facilities, and concerns about female changing and disabled access.