Sheffield & South Yorkshire

Jessica Ennis's Don Valley Stadium will close

Don Valley Stadium
Image caption Sheffield's Don Valley Stadium is where Olympic champion Jessica Ennis was first discovered

The Sheffield stadium where Olympic heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis trains is to be closed.

The demolition of the Don Valley Stadium, which cost £29m, is part of cost-saving measures approved by the city council.

The authority said the £700,000 it spent on the arena in 2012-13 was unsustainable as the stadium was running at a loss.

Ennis said the loss of Don Valley was a "huge shame" for Sheffield.

Before the decision was taken, sports minister Hugh Robertson said he hoped the stadium would not close.

'Financial disaster'

He said: "That stadium is extraordinarily emblematic and the fact that Jess Ennis was such a crucial figure last summer only adds to that.

"It means a lot to Sheffield, which is one of this country's great sporting cities, and I really hope the council recognise that and do everything possible to keep it open."

The 25,000-seat stadium was built as the centrepiece of a £147m scheme when Sheffield hosted the 1991 World Student Games.

Labour councillors of the time were criticised for landing the city with hundreds of millions of pounds of debt that is still being paid off at about £20m a year and will not be cleared until 2024.

During a heated debate about the cost-saving budget and the closure of the stadium, Liberal Democrat councillor Simon Clement-Jones said the student games was "one of the biggest financial disasters Sheffield has seen".

During the five-hour meeting, Ennis's coach Tony Minichiello said the athlete used Don Valley "at least twice a week for outdoor training".

'Massive disappointment'

She earlier said the venue held "great memories" as it was where she started her athletic career.

Image caption Jessica Ennis and her coach Toni Minichiello have both criticised the planned closure

"It's a huge shame. To see it demolished would be a massive, massive disappointment," Ennis said.

"We've achieved so much as a country in the London Olympics, so to lose some great facilities sends out the wrong message, really.

"I understand budgets and costs, but I think we need to find a way to keep it."

Chairman of Sheffield Athletics Club Mike Corden described the stadium as the best in the country for athletics and was outraged by the decision.

He said: "The writing was on the wall when they didn't instantly rename it after Jess following the Olympics."

The plan will see Don Valley Stadium close and the smaller Woodburn Road Athletics Stadium refurbished and reopened.

Sheffield City Council is making £50m of cuts in 2013-14 on top of £140m cuts already made in the past two years.

The authority said it understood nobody wanted to see the stadium close but it could not afford to continue subsidising it.

Minichiello told BBC Radio 5 live: "It means athletes in Sheffield won't have a 400m track to train on."

The stadium was also the temporary home of Rotherham United FC for four seasons and has hosted gigs by Michael Jackson and the Spice Girls.

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