The coach of Sheffield’s Olympic gold medallist Jess Ennis-Hill has branded the athletics facility set to replace Don Valley Stadium as a ‘potato field with a running track around it’.
Toni Minichiello attacked Sheffield Council’s plans to upgrade the mothballed Woodbourn Road athletics track as inadequate.
The coach said there is no suitable replacement for the 100 metre indoor track at Don Valley, because other indoor facilities at the English Institute of Sport are ‘chocka’.
He said the use of heavy vehicles to cut the grass at Woodbourn Road as part of efforts to bring it into use have left it rutted and unsafe for athletes.
Mr Minichiello said: “At the moment, it is a potato field surrounded by a running track and will need to be completely relaid.
“Some of the training with elite athletes is on grass because using running tracks every day can damage their knees. There also isn’t a suitable indoor running track once Don Valley closes.
“To get Woodbourn Road right would cost £2 million to £3 million.”
Mr Minichiello said fencing needs moving away from pole vaulting areas and long jump pits need replacing.
But Mike Corden, chairman of City of Sheffield Athletics Club, said: “There is a danger of making too big a deal about what is being provided at Woodbourn Road, compared with Don Valley – when if we don’t get Woodbourn up and running by September we will be left with no facility at all.
“I accept that improvements are needed to Woodbourn and in the future it would be a good idea if we could have an indoor running straight, but who is going to pay for it now?
“As a club, we have made every effort to try to save Don Valley but we can’t change the council’s mind.”
The council said areas of the grass infield would be relaid, new sandpits provided and the fence moved at the pole vaulting area.