Councillor Paul Tilsley has warned that Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium is at risk of becoming a ‘white elephant’ if it fails to find a long-term tenant following the city’s hosting of the Commonwealth Games in 2022.
The stadium is to benefit from a £70m (€80m/$90.5m) upgrade ahead of Birmingham 2022, increasing its capacity from 12,700 to 40,000. Twenty thousand of these seats will be retained after the Games.
The project will establish the stadium as the largest UK athletics venue outside of London but a long-term tenant has yet to be found for the facility. The stadium currently serves as the administrative home for the UK Athletics organisation and is often used to stage Diamond League events.
Tilsley has expressed concerns about the venue’s post-Games future, as well as the financing plan for the renovation work.
“It has taken a long long time for us to end up with sufficient information on the financing that we can actually have a sensible discussion and debate. Because the figures have not been forthcoming,” he said, according to the Birmingham Post newspaper.
“What concerns me is the consequences of us adding to our current level of debt and interest repayments. Those are my initial concerns, that when we’ve actually got the figures, it concerns me that we’re going to end up with an albatross round our neck, quite frankly.”
He added: “The fact of the matter is that we’re going to end up building a stadium with a 40,000 capacity for the Games, which will have a residual capacity of 20,000, and no residual end user.
“Unlike the Olympics, where there was always the potential for either Leyton Orient, who sunk into the national league, or West Ham bidding for it, and you had an end user.
“With the Commonwealth Games in Manchester there was an end user, with what was a particularly innovative financial package put together to cover that. We ain’t got one. With the best will in the world, if Solihull Moors were to get into the Football League their best attendances have been 1,500, and they’re not going to move 12 miles across the city to the stadium, although that was discussed some time ago.”
Tilsley also mentioned Birmingham Moseley Rugby and Football Club as a potential tenant but said the stadium does not have enough run off for try scoring.
“So I am concerned that we are putting ourselves in a position where the Alexander Stadium, unfortunately with £75m spent on it, is still going to be a white elephant,” he said. “And you can’t call a white elephant anything other than a white elephant.”
Birmingham was announced as the host of the 2022 Commonwealth Games in December 2017. It replaced Durban as the host, with the South African city having been stripped of rights earlier in the year amid financial concerns.
Image: Birmingham 2022