Ennis appeals for home stadium to be spared

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The Independent Online

The stadium where Olympic gold medal-winner Jessica Ennis took her first steps as an athlete is facing demolition because of council cuts.

Ennis last night spoke out against Sheffield City Council's plans to close the Don Valley Stadium. The heptathlete and poster girl for London 2012 was discovered during a summer schools training camp at the £29m arena in her home city and said the track could inspire other youngsters. "I am really disappointed with the news that Don Valley may be closed down – it is where my career started and I have some very fond memories of my times training there," she said.

The council, which has to find £50m savings to meet Government budget cuts this year, has insisted the plan to close Don Valley is just one of a number of options to be considered by councillors in March.

It said the stadium was underused and each spectator visit required a £5 subsidy, making it one of the most expensive sports facilities in the country. Ennis's coach Toni Minichiello said the star was not planning to move away from Sheffield where she lives close to her family. But he accused the city of not striving to attract top level competition to fill the stadium. Sheffield has not hosted a major athletics meeting since 2007.

"If you want legacy in Britain, things like the English Schools Championships, the British Transplant Games (which Don Valley is hosting in 2013), the county championships and area championships are the sorts of things you should be hosting there," he said. "And I don't think Sheffield has worked hard enough to get a lot of those events in," he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

Councillor Bryan Lodge said: ""These are extraordinarily difficult times and we have said we will have to look at tough budget options because of the devastating Government cuts to local government."