No decision yet on future of Meadowbank Stadium

Meadowbank was originally built for Scotland's 1970 Commonwealth Games. Picture: Jane Barlow
Meadowbank was originally built for Scotland's 1970 Commonwealth Games. Picture: Jane Barlow
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THE first hurdle has been cleared in a bid to have Meadowbank Stadium demolished and rebuilt at a cost of £43 million.

Edinburgh councillors have been given two options in regards the stadium, either find the money and save the site or face closing it within five years.

At a meeting of the council’s policy and strategy committee today, councillors agreed to continue to explore all funding options before taking a decision on the future of the venue which was the site of Scotland’s first Commonwealth Games in 1970.

Meadowbank was originally built for Scotland’s 1970 Commonwealth Games and was the setting for Scottish running legend Liz McColgan, under her maiden name of Liz Lynch, to famously win Commonwealth gold in the 10,000m in 1986.

Speaking to The Scotsman last week, Ms McColgan called for the venue to be saved and refurbished to become a new national athletics stadium.

She added: “It would be a shame to lose such a piece of athletic history.”

Councillors have agreed to put future funding proposals before the city’s annual budget meeting on February 12 when members will also be asked to green light £100,000 to carry out a ground survey to better understand the conditions of the existing site.

Funding to refurbish the venue is to be amassed through a range of methods – SportScotland is expected to allocate between £5m to £7m while revenue savings from closing the facilities and the sale of surplus land is hoped to make more than £15m.

This would leave the council with a shortfall of between £11.3m and £19.8m. However at present, the local authority faces having to make £67m of budget savings whilst cutting more than 1,200 jobs from its workforce.

It is understood that councillors hope to plug the gap using funding from a “development partner” in much the same arrangement as Arsenal Football Club has with the airline Emirates.

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Councillor Richard Lewis, Culture and Sport Convener for the City of Edinburgh Council, told his fellow members at the recent policy and strategy committee that currently the roof, electrics, heating system and water pumps all need replacing at the 40 year old stadium meaning there is “a case for doing something before being forced to something.”

He added: “While further work is still required on possible funding solutions, today’s decision means a brand new Meadowbank with facilities fit for the 21st century remains a real possibility. The decision on whether or not the venue will be rebuilt is subject to addressing the funding shortfall of £11.3m - £19.8m, but members have agreed to consider the future of the venue as part of the Council’s wider Budget discussion in four weeks time, and to also look into all funding options before a final decision is made. If the council decides not to proceed, options for a planned withdrawal of service at Meadowbank over the forthcoming five years will need to be looked at.”

At present, the sports venue is running at a £400,000 annual loss despite welcoming more than 500,000 users a year through its doors and the city council hopes to return it to its glory years by way of a multi-million pound revamp.

The venue has also been used for concerts in the past with Prince playing there in 1993 and the Foo Fighters performing in 2007.

If councillors choose the alternative to refurbishing the site then a planned “withdrawal of service” would take place over the next five years and the prime location in the east of the city sold off for housing.

However according to a senior council source there is understood to be “little appetite among members” to see the famous venue closed and sold off.

the new venue boasting an outdoor athletics track; an indoor 60m six lane athletics track with jumps area; a 3G synthetic sports pitch; an hall with eight badminton courts plus a gymnastics hall could be ready by 2018.

It was announced two years ago that the velodrome at the site where Sir Chris Hoy first learned his craft would be sold off and demolished. A new multi-million pound velodrome is to be built at Hunters Hall Park in the city.

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