Friday 20 October 2017

Ennis training stadium to close

Sheffield's Don Valley Stadium will be demolished as part of the city council's bid to save millions of pounds
Sheffield's Don Valley Stadium will be demolished as part of the city council's bid to save millions of pounds

The stadium where Olympic hero Jessica Ennis was discovered and trains will be closed and demolished as a cost-cutting measure, councillors have decided.

The £29 million Don Valley Stadium, in Sheffield, is being sacrificed as part of Sheffield City Council's bid to save millions of pounds.

The Labour-run authority says it must find £50 million of savings next year after the Government announced sweeping public spending cuts. It says the £700,000 it spent subsidising the facility in 2012/13 is unsustainable as the stadium is running at a loss.

City councillors voted in favour of the move as part of an overall budget plan that was approved after a five-hour meeting.

Olympic heptathlon gold medallist Ennis trains at the stadium. She was also discovered at the stadium when she went to a summer holidays athletics club when she was 10. After her triumph in August, some people called for the Don Valley Stadium to be renamed in her honour.

On Thursday, after she received her CBE at Buckingham Palace, Ennis said: "Having that iconic stadium in my home city is incredible. And to lose that would be such a shame for future athletes coming through. So I hope that the right decision's made." She later tweeted: "So sad to lose Don Valley Stadium! Where it all started for me. Great memories."

The council said it subsidises every visit by more than £5 and it requires major repair and maintenance work - totalling around £1.6 million. It has proposed the reopening of the track at the smaller Woodbourn Road Stadium nearby.

Mike Corden, chairman of City of Sheffield Athletics Club, was furious, describing the stadium as the best in the country for athletics. "The writing was on the wall when they didn't instantly rename it after Jess following the Olympics," he said. "We asked that question straight away and the politicians averted their eyes and waited for it to go away."

City councillor Isobel Bowler said: "No-one wants to close Don Valley but we can no longer afford to subsidise it by £700,000 a year. Over the next 10 years, the council will save over £6m - a huge amount of money. We will still provide a home for athletics at Woodbourn, less than a mile away and will cost less than £70,000 a year to run."

The council pointed out that there was little prospect that the stadium, if it were kept open, would ever be used for major UK athletics events again. The council said the stadium will remain open until September and alternative uses for the existing structure or the site will be investigated in the next few months.

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