The Anonymous Widower

The End Of The Don Valley Stadium

Sheffield’s Don Valley stadium was built for the World Student Games in 1991. It was never a real success and is now being demolished.

If there is a lesson from this story, it is to get the planning of what you do after the Games right. Manchester after the 2002 Commonweath Games rebuilt the stadium for Manchester City and the London 2012 Olympic stadium is going to be used by West Ham. Glasgow’s excellent 2014 Commonealth Games imaginatively built an Athletics Track inside Hampden Park. The Don Valley stadium didn’t seem to interest either or both of the city’s football clubs as a venue after the Games, so became a white elephant.

I do think a factor was that the stadium was designed in-house by Sheffield Council’s own architects. This policy was used extensively by British Rail and created some real monstrosities in the 1960s and 1970s.

By contrast the award-winning John Smith’s stadium in Huddersfield, which I visited in the afternoon and was built a few years later, was designed by specialist architects, as have most sports stadia around the world in recent years.

I do think too, that Sheffield missed a chance here of creating a prefabicated set of stands, in steel naturally, that would have fitted the standard athletics track. After the Games most could have been taken down leaving just enough for less-grand events. As the stadium is in a bowl, surely this could have been used to create an uncovered natural amphitheatre, where most people just sat on the grass. This has been used successfully at many horse racing venues in the UK and further afield, like Ascot, Goodwood and Epsom, where these areas have a totally different atmosphere.

In some ways it’s all rather sad and it has been probably a big waste of money, that could have been better spent. Athletics hasn’t drawn large crowds in the UK outside of the big set piece games and championships. The Alexander Stadium in Birmingham seems to be more than sufficient with a capacity of 12,700 for most other events, so the Don Valley stadium was probably a stadium too many for athletics. The nearest stadia at Gateshead, Manchester and the smaller track in Leeds, seem to have successfully negotiated multi-sport partnerships and appear to be on a much sounder footing, than the Don Valley Stadium ever was.

If they’d got the planning, re-use and design right, it might have been a very different story!

April 6, 2015 - Posted by | Sport | , , ,

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