Exclusive: Preview of Woodbourn before athletics venue reopens in Sheffield

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Work to bring Sheffield’s Woodbourn Road athletics track back into use after the closure of Don Valley has been completed on time and on budget.

The Star has been given a behind-the-scenes look at the £325,000 renovations as preparations are made for Sunday’s reopening.

Sheffield Council Leisure Chief Paul Billington at the newly refurbished Woodbourn Road Stadium

Sheffield Council Leisure Chief Paul Billington at the newly refurbished Woodbourn Road Stadium

And Olympic champion Jessica Ennis-Hill is among top athletes who could train at the reopened facility.

A long list of works has been carried out at the venue over the last few months so it can replace the doomed Don Valley Stadium.

Contractors have been busy doing everything from clearing weeds and litter from the car park to revamping floodlights at the Attercliffe venue, which was mothballed in 2011.

And the grass infield area between the track – compared to a ‘potato field’ earlier this year by gold medal-winning heptathlete Jess’ coach Toni Minichiello – has been relaid.

Now Mr Minichiello said Jess is likely to train at the track, after voicing concerns previously the site would be inadequate.

He said: “My hope is it would be possible for us to train at Woodbourn Road – it wouldn’t be common sense not to use the track if there are any times available.

“Otherwise we would be looking at possible alternatives such as in Rotherham, or at Mount St Mary’s College in Spinkhill.”

Mike Corden, chairman of the City of Sheffield Athletics Club, pledged today: “We’ll have some of best athletics provision in the country at Woodbourn.”

Paul Billington, Sheffield Council director of culture, said: “All work has been completed on time, on budget, and the contractor left yesterday.

“Over the next day or so, equipment will be moved from Don Valley Stadium into Woodbourn, then Sheffield Hallam University which will run the site will ensure it’s all ready to open.

“A host of works has been carried out. The biggest expenditure has been renewing the lighting, which has cost around £150,000.

“And the infield is now like the pitch at Wembley Stadium rather than a potato field.

“The track is only five years old so has needed only minor refurbishment and remarking but we have replaced the spectator seats.”

Mr Billington said for some sports the move to Woodbourn Road would be an improvement.

“There are throwing cages for shot and discus which we were unable to have at Don Valley Stadium,” he said.

“We never said Woodbourn would be the same as Don Valley Stadium – but that’s the reason it is viable to run whereas Don Valley wasn’t.

“We have a facility which is as good if not better for athletes to train, and it will also be able to host the regular school events that were held at the stadium.”

The total funding for Woodbourn’s refurbishment is £325,000, made up of £150,000 from the council, £150,000 from Sport England and £25,000 from England Athletics.

Woodbourn Road relaunches on Sunday, when there will be an open day from 10.30am which will be attended by athletics clubs, with free events and activities all day for the public.