The University of Birmingham’s running track is to close, just months after a reinvestment.
The track was resurfaced prior to the Jamaican athletes, including Usain Bolt, using it as their pre-Olympic training camp. Now it has been announced that the track is to close in time for a major campus redevelopment, leaving students without an important facility.
In an email to all members of the UBS Athletics & Cross Country Club, Zena Wooldridge, Director of Sport said,
The University is starting work on a major redevelopment of our campus including a new sports centre. In the long term this will transform facilities for sport on campus but the plans mean that the current track will no longer be available after the end of June 2013.
Although we would like to keep the track open throughout the athletics season, July is the very latest that we can start this phase of work.
Earlier this year the track was resurfaced in order to improve facilities ahead of the Jamaican pre-Olympic Games camp.
One member of the UBS Athletics and Cross Country Club, who wished to remain anonymous, said, ‘I do find it ridiculous that the University spent so much money bringing up the athletics facilities only to close them for good a few months later. However I'm glad there are provisions in place for us and the track will be replaced eventually.’
A spokesperson for the University said:
The track resurfacing earlier this year was desperately needed as the surface had become unsuitable for training. Indeed resurfacing was initially planned for 2011 before being delayed slightly. At that stage, planning permission for the redevelopment had not been granted and we took a decision to replace the surface rather than leave users with at least 18 months training on substandard facilities.
Students will be without track facilities for most of next year’s athletics season and there is, as of yet, no firm date for when the facilities will again be available on campus.
The email sent to all members of the club confirmed that the facility will be replaced, ‘Unfortunately, this means there is likely to be a gap in provision of an athletics track on the University campus. The University is fully committed to replacing the track and is currently investigating a number of options for this.’
The University has booked the use of the Alexander Stadium and Hadley Stadium for club training sessions whilst there are no track facilities on campus. This also includes funding to cover the cost of transport to the venue. However, students will have no use of facilities outside of these training sessions, as they are used to with the current facilities.
There is also doubt as to the future of Hadley Stadium as it could be closing down in 'the near future', but this has yet to be confirmed.
At a consultation meeting with the UBS Athletics and Cross Country Club, Bess Evans, UB Sport Operations Manager, confirmed that the decision to close the track was made by the University and not by UB Sport. She also said of the situation, 'It's disappointing; it's upsetting; it's worrying' but reassured students that alternative facilities are being found in the time that campus will not have a track.
A spokesman for the University of Birmingham said:
In the last few weeks the University was granted planning permission approval for a major redevelopment of our campus, which includes a new sports centre with facilities of regional/national impact. In the long term this will transform facilities for sport for the University and City, but the plans mean that the current track will no longer be available after the end of June 2013.
We are a sporting University – we understand the importance of athletics to our students, the community and the city. The University is fully committed to replacing the track and is currently investigating a number of options for this.
In the longer term the overall development plans will provide a huge upgrade to our sports facilities that will benefit students for years to come.
James Hughes, Vice-President Sport, said 'It's obviously very disappointing. It's something very close to me personally as an athletics and cross country member, but sadly there's not much we can do about it.'
Hughes also said he will not be fighting the decision, but will be putting his efforts into working out the best contingency plans.