Jessica Ennis' home stadium to be closed by Sheffield City Council
Friday, 01 March 2013
March 1 - Sheffield's Don Valley Stadium, built for the 1991 Summer Universiade and where Olympic heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis started her career and still trains, is to be closed.
Sheffield City Council voted tonight to go ahead with the closure of the Stadium as part of a package of cuts.
The Council has to save £50 million ($75 million/€58 million) in the next financial year.
Ennis reacted to news of the closure minutes after it was announced, tweeting: "So sad to lose Don Valley Stadium! Where it all started for me. Great memories."
She had called on Councillors to rethink the plans.
"It would be a huge shame," she said.
"I've got some amazing memories, starting my athletic career there and having that iconic stadium in my home city is incredible.
"To lose that would be such a shame for future athletes coming through, so I hope that the right decision's made and we can find a way to keep it."
The Stadium, with a seated capacity of 25,000 was biggest athletics arena in Britain until the Olympic Stadium in London was built, is due to remain open until September 2013 so planned events over the summer can still go ahead.
Alternative uses for the Stadium, where in 1993 the Czech Republic's Jan Zelezny set a world javelin record of 95.66 metres, or site will be considered by the City Council then.
Ennis began her athletics career after attending a summer camp at the Stadium, named after the River Don which flows nearby, in her home city.
Thousands gathered at the Stadium to watch on a big screen as she won Olympic gold in the heptathlon at London 2012.
Councillors have been accused of failing to build on the Olympic legacy by closing the venue.
A smaller, currently mothballed, stadium will be refurbished for athletes in Sheffield.
But Ennis's coach Toni Minichiello claimed the closure of Don Valley is a massive blow to the sport.
"It is an iconic Stadium and it's a place that has inspired youngsters and none more so than Jessica Ennis," said Minichiello.
"It is a fantastic facility and it is an incredible shame to lose something like this from the sporting map.
"Having taken the youngsters all the way through to Olympic gold you see that this actually can be done in Sheffield.
"Why, if you can have one Jessica Ennis, can you not have two or three?
"That opportunity all of a sudden looked to be there and now it's going to be taken away from a whole new generation of youngsters."
Sheffield City Council claimed in order to keep the Don Valley Stadium open and achieve the same level of saving it would have had to close up to five community sports facilities, resulting in a loss in sports participation of up to 10 times greater.
Isobel Blower, Cabinet Member for Culture, Sport and Leisure at Sheffield City Council, claimed the Stadium is too expensive to subsidise at £700,000 ($1 million/€800,000) per year.
"Over the next 10 years, the Council will save over £6 million ($9 million/€7 million) - a huge amount of money," she said.
"We will still provide a home for athletics at Woodbourn, which is less than a mile away and will cost less than £70,000 ($105,000/€81,000) a year to run.
"This approach has been endorsed by the sport's governing body [UK Athletics] and the city's two main athletics clubs are already engaged in constructive discussions with the Council about the transfer.
"Woodbourn will technically offer the same quality of track and field facilities and in fact will provide uninterrupted access for our local clubs."
Since the World Student Games the Stadium, which was built by RM Douglas Construction at a cost of £29 million ($44 million/€33 million) and opeated by Sheffield International Venues, has been used for a variety of sports, besides staging several televised athletics meetings.
It was the home ground of Rotherham United Football Club from 2008 until they moved to the New York Stadium at the start of the 2012-2013 season.
It was also one of the stadiums used for home games by rugby league side Sheffield Eagles.
The Stadium also hosted a number of world-class concerts, including Michael Jackson in 1997 before a crowd of 55,000 during his HIStory World Tour.
Other top names to play there included U2, the Spice Girls, Celine Dion and Def Leppard.