Athletics stadium closure hits champ Ennis

Woodburn Stadium, Woodburn Road, Attercliffe
Woodburn Stadium, Woodburn Road, Attercliffe
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The plans of Olympic gold medal hopeful Jessica Ennis have received a blow with news that one of her training bases is being closed down.

Woodbourn Road athletics stadium in Darnall is due to shut on July 31 after council chiefs decided the venue was too expensive to run and maintain.

World and European heptathlon champion Ennis is the most high profile athlete to be affected but clubs and schools across the city will also have to find alternative sites for training sessions and competitions.

While 25-year-old Ennis also uses Don Valley Stadium and the English Institute of Sport in Attercliffe to prepare for major championships she concentrates most of her throwing work – javelin and shot put – at Woodbourn Road.

The disciplines are considered to be her weakest two out of the seven she completes as a heptathlete and require extra work with her training team to make necessary improvements to technique and strength.

Woodbourn Road was the first of the new wave of sporting facilities in Sheffield. Opened on July 4 1987 by councillor Peter Price it was the city’s first all-weather track.

It proved an unsuitable site for the 1991 World Student Games with Don Valley Stadium being developed as a long-term world-class venue nearby.

And now the end approaches for the venue that has played host to thousands of events after The Star received information from a recent meeting between Sheffield City Council, the venue’s managers Sheffield International Venues and England Athletics.

In the meeting it was confirmed that Woodbourn Road would close at the end of July. It was also made clear that a new track at Chaucer school in Parson Cross were primarily schools’ facilities and community use is a secondary priority.

Athletics organisers are worried that the Chaucer facilities, due to be completed in August, do not offer a like-for-like replacement for Woodbourn Road.

The best certification that could be achieved at Chaucer was a B standard, there are concerns around the safety of the throws area, as well as issues for the use of the facility for schools competition such as a lack of a stand and effective holding areas for the athletes.

The Chaucer facility could not host league competitions for clubs like Hallamshire Harriers and Sheffield Athletics Club.

Sources at the council say every effort is being made to relocate current users of Woodbourn Road.

However, latest figures from the Sheffield International Venues website suggest cost may be a problem. A sports day at Woodbourn Road costs £249 plus VAT while the equivalent at Don Valley Stadium is from £795 plus VAT.

The venue may still be saved if an asset transfer of the facility was possible to a club or group.

The Star understands that the council, who are meeting with local clubs and governing bodies, would consider this.