It hasn’t been an easy journey getting both teams to the Park and I know from social media comments that many thought the Eagles would not return to the city. I hope we can now all get behind both Clubs to make sure they are successful in coming years.
The announcement of the Eagles return followed on from the opening of Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park to the public a couple of weeks ago, along with Oasis Academy children and UTC students starting to use the Park’s 3G pitch. These developments bring us a step further in realising the goals that we set ourselves when we started the journey on transforming the old Don Valley Stadium site into Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park.
It’s worth reminding ourselves what the goals were:
- Using sport and physical activity to increase the fitness and the wellbeing of the city by encouraging people to “move and move more often”
- Develop innovative technology to measure physical movement and activity
- Disseminate health and wellbeing information through the services and products which will be designed and developed at the Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre
- Maximise the use of the new sports facilities and open spaces for the benefit of local clubs and community
There has been criticism on a national basis that sports facilities are not used efficiently and, in many cases, are under utilised which is why we have designed the facilities for maximum use by professionals, amateurs and the community.
The problem with the old but loved Don Valley Stadium, is that it was losing money, only being used by a handful of people and becoming expensive to run and maintain. As such it was decided to demolish the Stadium in 2013 as part of a £50m cost cutting strategy for Sheffield City Council
Learning from that experience and others in the city, one of the objectives of building the new park is to maximise the use of open spaces on the Park in addition to its facilities. The School and College will be using the 3G pitch for outdoor activity and the Park Community Arena for indoor activities. Professional teams will play at weekends alongside amateur sports teams and clubs. Local runners and office workers have started using the running and cycling tracks around the Park
So, rather than a handful of people visiting Don Valley Stadium, there will be more than 3,000 people a day using and visiting Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park, school children, students attending the UTC, professional people using the AWRC and the new offices along with visitors using the proposed hotel and elite and professional athletes using the outdoor facilities for training. A real mix of uses and people making it a busy, thriving part of Attercliffe
In the evenings, fans will be watching the home matches of Sheffield Sharks and at weekends fans will be watching Sheffield Eagles and Sheffield United Ladies and Junior Teams. All of this will be added to the success of the Sheffield Steelers Ice Hockey matches at the DSA Arena and iceSheffield – this will be the place to visit for top class sports action and participation
Elsewhere in the City, but very much linked and tied to the work of the AWRC, are the exciting developments of the National Centre for Sport & Exercise Medicine (NCSEM) at Graves Health & Sports Centre and Concord Sports Centre.
At Graves, the 19-purpose built medical consultancy rooms receive patients that are being discharged from hospital or referred by GPs for programs of physical activities to help their recovery and rehabilitation. There are some very promising results emerging.
On 19th October a new health pathway course on Mental Health will start. This has been developed with the NCSEM and British Olympic Association (BOA) and will be focusing on mental health patients. The seven-week program will focus on physical health participation and use of athletes as role models to normalise six key areas of emotion. At the end of week seven successful participants will be acknowledged by BOA and be rewarded by enrolment into a special section of BOA Team GB.
Mental illness is one of the most pressing and growing issues facing the Health Service so these initiatives could reap benefits not just for the people using this new pathway but also for the Health Service budget.
So, in just under four years, the Park is coming back to life and helping to impact the health of the City and regenerate the Attercliffe corridor and a key gateway to Sheffield.