Angry parents use car headlamps to light Sheffield athletics track after controversial closure

Young athletes training in near darkness at Sheffield Hallam University City Athletics Stadium, where parents resorted to using car headlights to illuminate the track
Young athletes training in near darkness at Sheffield Hallam University City Athletics Stadium, where parents resorted to using car headlights to illuminate the track

Angry parents resorted to using car headlamps as makeshift floodlights so their children could train at a Sheffield athletics stadium.

They improvised after turning up for a training session at the Woodbourn Road venue in Attercliffe on Monday night to find it in darkness.

Cars were driven to the side of the track in an effort to provide enough light so the training session could go ahead

Cars were driven to the side of the track in an effort to provide enough light so the training session could go ahead

Sheffield Hallam University, which manages the premises, has taken the decision to close the facility on Monday and Friday evenings this December and January as it says the numbers turning up do not justify keeping it open at those times.

But the message failed to reach many athletes, who turned up expecting to train as normal on Monday evening.

One disappointed dad has now launched a petition calling for the city’s only outdoor athletics stadium to be be kept open every evening.

Iain Smith, whose daughter is a cross country runner, claims reducing the hours is a betrayal of the commitment made when Don Valley Stadium was closed to maintain access to quality athletics facilities for all.

“This makes a mockery of the promise made back then and of our ‘City of Sport’ moniker,” he said.

“You usually get at least 100 people down there on a Monday night. Where else are they meant to go?

“Where is our next Jessica Ennis-Hill going to come from if we cannot provide quality training facilities with open access?

“We had to use cars to light the stadium on Monday because people were so desperate to train, and you had people throwing hammers in virtual darkness, which is ludicrous.”

Sheffield Hallam University City Athletics Stadium, as it is officially known, was taken over by the university in 2013 and underwent a £325,000 revamp.

It is home to Hallamshire Harriers and the City of Sheffield & Dearne Athletics Club, as well as being used by hundreds of university students and young people from across the city.

Richard McGloin, Sheffield Hallam University’s director of commercial services, said: “After discussions with the athletics clubs across the city and the Sheffield Athletics Group, it was decided that the stadium would be closed on Monday and Friday evenings during December and January.

“The facility will be open as normal during the day and throughout the rest of the week. This is due to low usage during these times, particularly when the weather is poor, and is in line with many other outdoor training facilities across the country that close their programmes during the winter due to low participation.”

Councillor Shaffaq Mohammed, the leader of Sheffield Liberal Democrats, said: “I don’t think the decision to close the stadium on Monday and Friday nights is in keeping with the assurances made when Don Valley Stadium was shut.

“I was horrified to see that parents had to resort to using cars to light the track.

“I would like to know the details of the lease the council agreed with the university, and how many hours a week that stipulates it should stay open.”

The Star contacted Sheffield Council, which declined to comment.

You can sign the petition here.