PLANS for a multi-million pound revamp of Sheffield’s arena have been met with anger from a community fighting to keep its leisure centre open.
Campaigners fighting the closure of Stocksbridge Leisure Centre have raised questions over why cash to fund the overhaul of Motorpoint Arena in Attercliffe cannot be used to save the vital community facility.
Both the arena and leisure centre are owned by Sheffield International Venues – but Sheffield Council is proposing to cut the £400,000 in public subsidies it gives to the Stocksbridge centre every year.
Coun Jack Clarkson, a member of Stocksbridge Town Council, believes SIV’s announcement of the revamp is an insult to the people of the town.
He said: “SIV was born from Sheffield Council, they invest hundreds of thousands of pounds in it. Have they ever given anything back? They can afford to invest millions in this, but the council can’t afford to keep a leisure centre – which is vital to the community – open.
“The council has invested thousands of pounds in SIV over the years. It’s time they gave something back.”
The arena is having its roof replaced and new seating installed as part of the improvement work.
SIV has refused to confirm the exact cost, saying only it was a multi-million pound scheme.
It is being pushed through to ensure the city does not lose business when rival Leeds Arena, which is costing in the region of £80 million, opens in September.
Steve Brailey, SIV chief executive, said: “We expect the full cost of the investment to be exceeded by the income from additional business opportunities.”
Emma Gregory, chairman of the Save Stocksbridge Leisure Centre campaign, said: “SIV should have done more to help Stocksbridge Leisure Centre. “I feel despondent with how all of this has been handled by not only SIV, but Sheffield City Council.”
Fellow group member David Willington, a father-of-two, said: “We are pretty miffed by the whole thing. We understand that as a business it is losing money, we’ve seen the accounts, but there are ways of generating extra money.
“It feels as though the council has already made its decision to close us anyway.”
The campaign is now appealing for more time to attempt to make a business plan for the leisure centre with a view to it becoming community-ran.
A council spokesman said: “No council subsidy or spend is going into the refurbishment of the Motorpoint Arena.”