Sheffield & South Yorkshire

Tearing down the track: Don Valley demolition begins

Don Valley Stadium
Image caption Demolition work is set to begin at Don Valley Stadium

As the wrecking ball looms over Sheffield's Don Valley Stadium, there are plenty of memories to savour from the venue's 23-year existence.

Don Valley in numbers

£29m: The cost of building the stadium, which was completed in September 1990 ahead of the 1991 World Student Games.

£147m: The total cost of the construction programme for the World Student Games that included building the Ponds Forge Swimming Pool and Sheffield Arena.

25,000 seats: The stadium was the second-largest athletics stadium in the UK behind the London Olympic Stadium, which seats 80,000.

67 years: It was the first completely new sporting venue built outdoors in Great Britain since Wembley Stadium, which opened in 1923.

52,000 capacity: The stadium was full to bursting when Irish rock legends U2 played at the venue in August 2009 on their 360 Tour.

World Student Games

Image caption Steve Backley competes at Don Valley in 1990, ahead of the World Student Games

The official opening of the 16th Summer Universiade, or World Student Games, took place on 14 July 1991.

More than 3,000 athletes from more than 100 nations took part.

Among the competitors was javelin thrower Steve Backley, who took gold at the games.

"I have great memories of the games," he said.

"I was team captain and have very fond memories of carrying the British flag around the stadium in front of 25,000.

"I thought 'This feels like a major competition'."

While the Universiade brought top class sporting facilities to Sheffield it also burdened the city with debt.

In 2011, the bill for the games was reported to be £658m.

Memorable Moments

Image caption Peter Elliott (left) on his way to beating Steve Cram at Don Valley in 1991

Despite gracing the top table of athletics for less than two decades - the last major track and field meeting was held in 2007 - Don Valley was the scene of many historic events.

Within months of opening, Rotherham athlete Peter Elliott triumphed over Steve Cram in a mile-long race to send the South Yorkshire crowd wild.

"It was a head-to-head with Steve," said Mr Elliott, now deputy director for operations at the English Institute of Sport, in Sheffield.

"It was the last race of the day. It had been billed as a big race... [so] to go out and win the race and get a personal best and do a lap of honour in front of home support, was one of the highlights of my career."

In 1993, Czech javelin thrower Jan Zelezny set a new world record of 95.66m (313ft) - a record that stood for three years before Zelezny himself broke it at an event in Germany.

Linford Christie, Colin Jackson and Sally Gunnell, are among the British athletes to have graced the track.

In 2005, Dame Kelly Holmes ran her last professional race in the UK at Don Valley.

Reaction to demolition

Image caption Jessica Ennis-Hill trained at Don Valley ahead of winning gold in the Women's Heptathlon at London 2012

News of Sheffield City Council's plans to close the stadium emerged in January 2013 and the decision to demolish the venue was made in April.

The closure prompted shock and disappointment among many.

In January, Jessica Ennis-Hill, who trained at the stadium in the run up to winning Olympic gold in 2012, said: "It would be very sad to see the city lose such a great stadium.

"We have inspired a new generation of athletes through the Olympics and we need to have the facilities for them to pursue their dreams."

Irish Olympic legend Sonia O'Sullivan, who won gold in the 1,500m at the World Student Games in 1991, said the demolition was part of a worrying threat to her sport.

"It makes you wonder 'Is athletics becoming a bit less significant than it used to be?'," she said.

"It seems to be important every four years when the Olympics is on but in the in-between years it does not seem to have the same attraction."

Not just an athletics stadium

Image caption Rotherham United played their home fixtures at the stadium between 2008 and 2012

As well as being an arena for top class athletics, Don Valley Stadium has hosted several other sports.

Rotherham United played there between 2008 and 2012 before moving to the New York Stadium.

Chief operating officer Paul Douglas said the move to Sheffield had "saved" the side.

He said: "It was a difficult time but I know most of our fans will have some good memories of it."

Don Valley was also home to rugby league side the Sheffield Eagles.

Club chairman Ian Swire said: "There's been a great atmosphere in there and some fantastic performances over a lot of years."

The Eagles have agreed a move to the Owlerton Stadium for the next two years.

Not just a sporting venue

Image caption Joe Elliott, of Def Leppard. The Sheffield band performed to about 40,000 fans at Don Valley Stadium in 1993

Don Valley has doubled as a music venue, with artists including the Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson, Tina Turner, Lionel Richie and the Spice Girls taking to the stage.

Speaking to BBC Radio Sheffield earlier this year, Joe Elliott, frontman of Sheffield-band Def Leppard, described his emotions when the band played to a crowd of about 40,000 in 1993.

"I remember walking on stage in 1993 at Don Valley almost 15 years to the date since the first gig," he said.

"I was 'Oh my God! Look at all these people'."

In 1999, a sell-out crowd of 25,000 celebrated the new millennium at Gatecrasher's "2000GC" event.

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