9 reasons that I loved Don Valley

It was decided today that Don Valley Stadium is going to close, be demolished, and save Sheffield City Council £50,000,000.  Here are 9 reasons why I love(d) Don Valley.

  1. Opened in 1990 Don Valley was built on the old steelworks and was paving the way for a new Sheffield that was leaving behind the pain of 80s.  Sheffield is a thriving city and as a child I always looked at Don Valley as something modern and hopeful.
  2. I loved race walking and there was no better feeling than stepping onto the track in a big stadium, and best of all when it’s in your home town.  I’ve got some great and some painful memories from racing on the track and on the paths and roads in and around the stadium.  I got disqualified in the national road championships there in 1998 😦  But won the English Schools there in 1999 🙂
  3. Quite often on school holidays we’d go to the Star Track athletics holiday clubs.  I used to love getting coaching in all the different events.  I especially remember being intimidated and inspired by Tony Minichello (Jessica Ennis’ coach).
  4. In 1991 Don Valley hosted the World Student Games – it was a fantastic spectacle but the most memorable moment was Britain’s first astronaut, Helen Sharman, tripping over on the red carpet whilst carrying the torch!
  5. Dad managed to persuade school to let us have a couple of days off for the World Student Games, it is my best memory of athletics as a spectator.  We were there especially to watch the decathlon and I can remember avidly adding all the scores up working out who was winning.
  6. Don Valley has hosted loads of other world class athletics events.  It was crazy seeing Jan Zelezny throw the javelin over 93m – breaking the world record and nearly hitting the TV commentators who were interviewing nearby.  We were also there when Kelly Holmes had her homecoming after her Athens double gold and the atmosphere was amazing.
  7. Don Valley hosted loads of big names in music – Def Leppard, Michael Jackson and I remember one of our best teachers ever, Mr Marsden, getting so excited about Tina Turner coming to town.
  8. I love Don Valley for the little details.  I loved the smell of the high jump bed and the way you could just catch a glimpse of the Supertram through a gap in the stand (back when trams were a cause for excitement!).  I remember at the World Student Games the ‘click, click, click’ of the string on the flag poles, and then every time you’re resting between a training rep, or the silence before a race starts, there’s the clicking again – like the familiar ticking of clock on the mantelpiece at home.
  9. Which brings me to my last point – I haven’t been back for ages but Don Valley always felt like home.  I just found it special, magical and inspiring.

It’s really sad.  Obviously it has sentimental value for me, but since the council also closed Woodbourne Road track a few years ago there isn’t a stadium left in Sheffield.  England’s fourth biggest city, the city that produced the mastermind and the symbol of the Olympic legacy and it won’t have an athletics stadium.  I hear that Woodbourne Road might be re-developed but the fact that City of Sheffield AC currently use a track at a village in Derbyshire for their home fixtures says a lot for how Don Valley was being used!

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