Fast track to £2.5m Sheffield stadium

Marathon task: Former Sports Minister Richard Caborn at Woodbourn Road Athletics track.                       PICTURE: STEVE ELLIS
Marathon task: Former Sports Minister Richard Caborn at Woodbourn Road Athletics track. PICTURE: STEVE ELLIS
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MULTI-MILLION pound plans are being announced today for a redevelopment of Woodbourn Road athletics track, and a new £15m ground for Sheffield Eagles rugby league club, after Don Valley Stadium shuts.

Former Sports Minister Richard Caborn revealed the details exclusively to The Star.

The proposals are backed by 2012 chief Lord Coe, and form the largest ‘Olympic legacy’ plan outside London.

Public consultation about the project, and a feasibility study, are to be launched today.

But Sheffield Council has previously said reopening Woodbourn Road as a replacement for Don Valley would cost just £150,000 - while Mr Caborn’s plans involve spending up to £2.5m.

Mr Caborn said: “We are talking about redeveloping a 26-acre site from Woodbourn Road stadium all the way through to Don Valley Bowl, next to the Arena.

“The aim is to knock down Don Valley Stadium and flatten Flame Hill next to the stadium, which currently provides a physical barrier in the lower Don Valley.

“This is the largest Olympic legacy project outside London and will provide a state-of-the-art home for athletics, rugby and numerous other sports, helping to maintain Sheffield’s reputation as a city of sport.”

Mr Caborn said plans for Woodbourn Road could cost as much as ‘£2 million to £2.5 million’.

Renovations would be made to the track, lighting and environment of the stadium, seats would be added, and a 60 to 80 metre sprint track would be built indoors.

Mr Caborn said: “Both Sheffield and Hallam universities’ athletics clubs are interested in getting involved, along with the other athletics clubs.

“We would have the best facilities for athletics which, because of the indoor track, could be used at all times of year.”

Mr Caborn said Sheffield Council has now pledged to pull together £300,000 towards the scheme - and a bid is being made to UK Athletics and UK Sport for several hundreds of thousands of pounds more.

“If the universities get involved that could bring in more money, while having Lord Coe on board could help us access Government funding,” he added.

The other part of the plan involves developing a new ground for Sheffield Eagles rugby league and Rotherham Titans rugby union clubs.

The Eagles are seeking a permanent home because they are unable to play all their matches at Bramall Lane - which is being used as an alternative to Don Valley Stadium for some games.

The pitch at the Blades’ home ground isn’t good enough quality, and would need a £750,000 investment.

Mr Caborn said it has not yet been worked out how the 12,000 to 15,000-seat new rugby ground would be paid for.

He added it could cost around £12m to £15m for an all-seater ground, although the amount could be reduced if some standing sections were provided in the stadium.

Money could be raised by selling some of the existing Don Valley Stadium site for housing - with the rugby ground taking up a smaller footprint than the current venue.

Mr Caborn said redevelopment of Don Valley for rugby would not be viable because £7m would be needed for roofs for three stands, while the main stand needs a new roof, wiring and heating at a cost of £1.6m.

Mr Caborn added new bases could also be created for other professional sports such as basketball and snooker, on other parts of the site.

“Discussions would need to take place with those sports,” Mr Caborn said.