Historic Meadowbank velodrome to be demolished

An impression of what the new, multi-use facilities at Meadowbank Stadium would look like. Picture: contributed
An impression of what the new, multi-use facilities at Meadowbank Stadium would look like. Picture: contributed
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the velodrome where cycling champion Sir Chris Hoy learned his craft on the way to becoming Britain’s most successful Olympian will be sold off and demolished to fund a long-awaited revamp of Meadowbank Stadium.

Designs for three different options to replace the crumbling stadium in London Road have been revealed for the first time in a new £60,000 consultancy report commissioned by the city council.

And all three proposals, ranging in cost from £35 million to £85m, would require selling off the site’s eastern wedge, which includes the outdoor cycling track where Hoy first started as a junior.

Plans that include building separate ten-court and five-court halls, a dedicated gymnastics space, fitness suite, all-weather multi-lane running straight and an indoor five-a-side pitch as a minimum have been widely welcomed by sporting groups. But the city’s most experienced track cycling coach, Brian Annable – the man who once trained Hoy on the path to greatness – condemned the planned demise of the velodrome, describing the facility’s loss as a “great pity” for Edinburgh.

Mr Annable, who received an OBE for services to cycling earlier this year, lamented spending more than £10,000 on the ageing track this year to keep it fit for competition and training.

He said of the vision for Meadowbank: “The track does have historical importance to me. Chris Hoy started with me as a schoolboy there, but it’s not just Chris – we’ve had a number of Olympians and many world and European champions that have trained there. It is a great pity.”

Hoy, a six-time Olympic gold medallist, had also called for the velodrome to be preserved as recently as September last year.

The city council is planning to build a replacement outdoor cycling track at the Jack Kane Sports Centre in Craigmillar. Design plans are expected to be finalised by March, with city chiefs intent on completing the project soon after next year’s Commonwealth Games.

City culture and sport convener Richard Lewis said: “We do have to take a national look at this. Chris Hoy was training when he was young and having to go down to Manchester to use an international-class indoor facility. Now we’ve seen the emergence of his eponymous velodrome in Glasgow, people can go the 40 miles from Edinburgh to that.”

Meadowbank Stadium was originally built for the 1970 Commonwealth Games and has been labelled no longer “fit for use” by city officials approaching its 50th birthday.

The existing stadium would be demolished as part of any redevelopment, with refurbishing the existing building having been ruled out.
The most expensive design option would cost £85.2m and include building an indoor 200m velodrome, four enclosed tennis courts and a 10,000-seater stadium.

However, Cllr Lewis has already conceded that plan will be ruled out as financially unfeasible.

Edinburgh Rugby has previously expressed a desire to find a new home away from the vast expanses of Murrayfield Stadium, but discussions with the city council are yet to lead to any firm commitment.

A spokesman for Edinburgh Rugby said: “We have met with Edinburgh City Council on a number of occasions to discuss how rugby can sit within the wider plan and we will continue to have positive discussions.”

The two alternative designs for Meadowbank would cost £35.1m and £41m respectively based on the report.

Both options include retaining the existing outdoor 400m running track and the newly-built outdoor 3G football pitch, as well as new squash courts, changing rooms and five upper-floor studios.

The larger sports hall would have seating for 2500 people, while the smaller would have a 650-seat capacity. A stand next to the outdoor athletics track would accommodate 500 people.

Cllr Lewis said the more compact training centre would be built on vacant land at the site, meaning the revamp would not result in a period where people where left without any facility at all.

He said: “That was one of the fears for Edinburgh Leisure, with half a million people using that facility.

“What’s good about this is there is no need for a decant – we can build and as each facility comes online we simply close the existing one.”

Scottish Gymnastics chief executive Brian Samson welcomed the initial proposals for Meadowbank, and Lothian Greens MSP Alison Johnstone, a qualified UK athletics coach, said: “It’s heartening to see costed proposals for restoring Meadowbank as a modern public sports facility. We must be ambitious at the design stage so that we can be proud of this investment well into the future.”

The options will be considered by the council’s culture and sport committee on Tuesday. The authority has already acknowledged that a detailed feasibility study and wider public consultation on the options are needed.

dale.miller@edinburghnews.com