£25 million revamp of decrepit Meadowbank faces a marathon wait

A LONG-awaited overhaul of Edinburgh's crumbling athletics stadium is set to be postponed until after the London Olympics and Glasgow's Commonwealth Games, The Scotsman can reveal.

Almost two years after councillors voted to demolish the ageing Meadowbank arena and sell off a third of the site to fund a new 25 million complex, the project is nowhere near getting under way.

Insiders at the City of Edinburgh Council have revealed that the prospects of new facilities being ready for 2014 are "next to nothing" – despite the local authority unveiling plans for new facilities as long ago as 2004.

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In fact, a new report for the council warns that the existing stadium is in danger of being closed down because its infrastructure is in such a poor state.

The collapse of the housing market in 2008 is being blamed for the demise of the project to create a new-look Meadowbank, a plan drawn up after the Liberal Democrat-SNP administration abandoned plans for a new stadium in west Edinburgh.

Opposition councillors say the current impasse shows the folly of that decision, opposed at the time by sporting organisations and local campaign groups. The council has also failed to make progress on any plans to replace Meadowbank's velodrome with an indoor cycling facility, despite announcing the project in the wake of Sir Chris Hoy's heroics at the Beijing Olympics two years ago.

Only essential repairs to prevent the stadium's closure on health and safety grounds are now expected to be carried out over the next few years.

Paul Godzik, Labour's sports spokesman on the council, said: "It is extremely worrying. This report warns of a high risk that Meadowbank could be closed by a major mechanical or electrical failure.

"The whole project seems to have been kicked into the long grass and Edinburgh risks being left way behind Glasgow by the Commonwealth Games."

Gordon Buchan, his Conservative counterpart, added: "Work would have been well under way on-site in Sighthill by now. It was clearly the wrong decision."

The council was awarded 7m in July 2004 by the then Scottish Executive towards the proposed 37m Sighthill complex. However, a hostile reaction to the sale of the site at Meadowbank led to those plans being put on hold, despite the council having little prospect of finding the money for a refurbishment of the existing arena.

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The new council voted to press ahead with a partial sale of Meadowbank in March 2008, only to postpone the project months later amid fears that the value of the land had plummeted.

A spokeswoman for the council yesterday admitted that there was no prospect of any major work starting at Meadowbank in the foreseeable future.

"As reported in November 2008, due to the current economic climate, plans to redevelop Meadowbank are presently on hold. Essential works are ongoing to extend the stadium's operational life.

Meadowbank will remain an important training venue for Scottish athletes of many sporting disciplines."