UK

Olympic Legacy Dealt A Blow As Sheffield Don Valley Stadium, Where Jessica Ennis Discovered, To Close

01/03/2013 19:07 GMT | Updated 01/03/2013 20:35 GMT

The Olympic legacy promised in the aftermath of London 2012 was dealt another blow on Friday night as Sheffield Council voted to demolish the stadium where heptathlon gold medallist Jessica Ennis trains.

The Don Valley Stadium, which cost £29m, is unsustainable and running at a loss, the Labour council said, despite pleas to save it from Ennis and from Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who has his constituency in the city.

The stadium currently costs £700,000 to run from 2012-2013, according to the BBC.

jessica ennis

Jessica Ennis as winning the gold medal in the heptathlon at the London 2012 Olympics

Collecting her MBE on Thursday, Ennis said the closure was a terrible mistake. "It's a huge shame. To see it demolished would be a massive, massive disappointment," she said.

"We've achieved so much as a country in the London Olympics, so to lose some great facilities sends out the wrong message, really.

"I understand budgets and costs, but I think we need to find a way to keep it."

Ennis was 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.

It is also home to the City of Sheffield Athletics Club.

In its budget statement, Sheffield City Council said: "Don Valley Stadium is a high-cost venue and we subsidise every visit by over £5.

"The closure of Don Valley Stadium offers us the potential of very high savings with relatively low impact on community participation. To achieve the same level of saving, we would have to close up to five community facilities."

The plan is to have the smaller Woodburn Road Athletics Stadium refurbished and reopened, as the council must make £50m of cuts in 2013-14 on top of £140m cuts already made.

Ennis's coach, Toni Minichiello, told BBC Radio 5: "It means athletics in Sheffield won't have a 400m track to train on.

"There's some talk about them revamping the Woodburn Road site but, from what I gather, the amount of money that they're wanting to put in really doesn't bring it up to scratch or provide any kind of lasting legacy for athletics in the city.

"I think they're going to do a really simple job on it, just to get it open so people can run round it, but not really set it up for the youngsters that have been inspired by Jessica."

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The Don Valley Stadium, which is to close

The council said it subsidises every visit by more than £5 and it requires major repair and maintenance work - totalling around £1.6 million.

The 25,000-seat stadium, which was a temporary home to Rotherham United FC for four seasons and has hosted gigs by Michael Jackson, Celine Dion and the Spice Girls, was built as the centrepiece of a £147 million construction programme when Sheffield hosted the 1991 World Student Games.

The funding of the games has provided 20 years of controversy in Sheffield that continues.

Many still criticise the Labour councillors of the time for landing the city with hundreds of millions of pounds of debt that is still being paid off at around £20 million a year and will not be cleared until 2024.

Others have argued the games kick-started a move to make Sheffield one of most important centres for sport in the UK and left the city with world-class facilities, including the Ponds Forge swimming centre.

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."

Lord Coe should have intervened in his capacity as games legacy ambassador, the club chairman said.

"Someone should be on the phone to Seb Coe - he is desperate for the issue to go away.

"Last year Boris Johnson, Coe, David Cameron and Tessa Jowell were all preening themselves - let them all come and look here at what has been left here.

"Is this the legacy that Coe wanted?"

Bryan Lodge, Sheffield City Council cabinet member for finance, said: We have had to make very difficult decisions and ones that we did not come in to local politics to make but the hard, cold facts are that we have had to balance a budget and find ways of saving money that will mean less pain for as many people as possible."

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.