SCOTTISH running legend Liz McColgan has called for Meadowbank Stadium to be saved as it was revealed the site faces being demolished and rebuilt at a cost of £43 million – or closure within five years.
These are the two options being put before Edinburgh city councillors in relation to the venue, which was originally built for Scotland’s 1970 Commonwealth Games and was the setting for McColgan, under her maiden name of Liz Lynch, to famously win Commonwealth gold in the 10,000m in 1986.
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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 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.
The alternative would see a planned “withdrawal of service” over the next five years and the prime location in the east of the city sold off for housing.
Former world champion McColgan, 50, who first competed at the site as a 12-year-old, is certain what option she would like city councillors to choose.
She said: “Scotland has no national athletics stadium and I for one think we should and Edinburgh’s Meadowbank Stadium would be the perfect place – it would be a shame to lose such a piece of athletic history.”
McColgan’s view is echoed by another former Scottish great, Allan Wells, 62, who became the 100m Olympic champion at the 1980 Games in Moscow.
Wells said: “Meadowbank is dilapidated but it is well used and is a positive thing for athletics. All the talk following the Commonwealth Games has been about legacy, but that is what Meadowbank has. There was a time when 90 per cent of Scottish athletics records were held by east-coast athletes due to them having access to Meadowbank.”
Scottish Green MSP Alison Johnstone, herself a former athlete who won the senior East of Scotland 1500m title at Meadowbank in 1994, and who currently coaches under-15s at the venue, is also “determined” to see it remain. She said: “To close Meadowbank would make a mockery of the meaningful legacy left by the Glasgow Games.”
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 having to find 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 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.
Councillors are being asked to make a decision on the Meadowbank proposals as part of the council’s budget considerations on 12 February. Should the plans be agreed, and funding secured, 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.
Councillor Richard Lewis, city culture and sport convener said: “For almost 50 years now, Meadowbank has nurtured sporting participation at all levels. It feels right that after Scotland’s successful 2014 Commonwealth Games, we kick off 2015 by considering the future of the country’s very first Games venue.
“Over half a million users visit Meadowbank every year and it is a much-loved city sports facility, but we will need to consider how we can source funding for a project of this scale given the financial pressures the council faces.”
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