Plans for a major redevelopment of Alexander Stadium to make it the centrepiece of the 2022 Commonwealth Games have today (Thursday) been approved, with Ian Ward, Leader of Birmingham City Council, describing the project as “crucial” for the English city’s future.
At the heart of the wider effort to regenerate the Perry Barr area of Birmingham, the £72m (€85.5m/$94.3m) plan will see the venue, currently primarily an athletics stadium, become a multi-purpose facility in the decades to come.
Initially, the stadium is set to be the focal point of Birmingham 2022, hosting the opening and closing ceremonies as well as the athletics events during the 11-day multi-sport event. The redeveloped stadium will increase its permanent seating capacity from 12,700 to 18,000, rising to more than 30,000 during the Games through additional temporary seating.
Post-Games it will be at the centre of a regenerated Perry Barr, which is receiving more than £500m of investment in the coming years, which also includes new housing, improved transport and related upgrades to infrastructure and public space. The revamped stadium is set to host a range of tenants including the famous Birchfield Harriers Athletics Club and Birmingham City University.
Speaking after approval of the project from the Council’s planning committee, Ward said: “We’ve always been clear that Birmingham 2022 is about much more than 11 days of fantastic world-class sporting action. The Games are about regeneration, improved health and wellbeing, promoting the city on a global stage and building civic pride.
“This particular scheme is integral to all of those aims and benefits – the eyes of the Commonwealth and indeed the wider world will be on the venue during the Games, but the longer-term opportunities the improved stadium will offer a regenerated Perry Barr, and indeed the wider region and nation, mean the delivery of this scheme is crucial for the city’s future.”
Construction of a new western stand replacing the Main, Knowles and Nelson stands will commence in spring of this year, with completion in late 2021. This will be followed by test events ahead of the Commonwealth Games, which commence on July 27, 2022. The approved design will also facilitate the temporary ‘Games overlay’ elements and additional infrastructure needed specifically to deliver the 2022 Games.
Ian Reid, chief executive for Birmingham 2022, said: “Today’s news that planning approval has been granted is…a key moment for us as the organisers of the Games and one which we are pleased to be able to celebrate with our partners.
“Birmingham City Council will be delivering the new sections of the stadium and we look forward to watching progress over the next couple of years, ahead of us moving into the stadium when we deliver the Games in 2022.”
In June, organisers of the 2022 Commonwealth Games confirmed that the event will have a budget of £778m, slightly above initial projections but significantly below that spent on the 2018 Games in Gold Coast, Australia.
Finalising of the budget was one of the key outstanding tasks for Birmingham 2022, which is having to meet the challenge of delivering the Games with a significantly truncated timescale, after the hosting rights were withdrawn from the South African city of Durban in March 2017 and awarded to Birmingham in December 2017.
Projections at the time had outlined a budget of £750m. This has increased by £28m, with around three quarters of the public funding, which includes contingency, to be met by central government (£594m), with Birmingham City Council and a number of its key partners to account for the remaining £184m.
The latter funding will come with Birmingham City Council’s financial position having been described as “immensely serious” by a government-commissioned independent panel earlier in 2019. A portion of the £778m of public funding will be invested in the redevelopment of Alexander Stadium and the building of the brand new Sandwell Aquatics Centre.