Derby's £27.5m sports arena 'should have been built for London 2012'
A BRITISH Cycling chief says the design of Derby's £27.5 million sports arena – complete with a velodrome – is so good it should have been built for London 2012.
Dave Cockram, national facilities officer at the organisation, spoke as he witnessed construction work on the Pride Park development start yesterday.
He revealed the design came "very, very close" to being chosen for the Olympic Park but narrowly lost out to a structure put together by Hopkins Architects.
And he added: "I would have liked to have seen this one be built instead. It's got everything – it caters for a variety of sports. It's more useable."
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Diggers got to work at 2.50pm yesterday on the project that is expected to take 18 to 24 months to complete.
When it is finished, it will have a 250m cycling track, a 12-court sports hall, a gym, multi-function rooms, a spinning room and a café.
People will be able to go along to play badminton, netball and basketball, as well as cycle on the velodrome track. The arena will also double-up into a concert venue for 5,000 spectators.
The building work is being carried out by Bowmer & Kirkland, a national construction firm which has its headquarters in Derbyshire.
Director Robert Kirkland said: "This was a target contract for us. We really wanted to build it.
"Our head office is in Heage and Derby is our hub. We saw this as an absolutely superb project that would give us the opportunity to show our skills sets, locally.
"It's a complex project but our workforce is highly skilled. We have 1,500 employees and 150-250 of them will be working on this. It is a project that has safeguarded jobs.
"The work will be carried out by a lot of local people. The project manager lives in Mickleover, for instance.
"The first phase is the car park, which we anticipate will be completed by March 2013, which is when work on the arena itself will begin."
Councillor Martin Repton, cabinet member for leisure and culture, said the public should be "incredibly excited" that work had started.
He said: "It's going to be an iconic building, not just for us but for the whole country. It's going to be awe-inspiring. It will be an extremely versatile facility that will benefit hundreds of thousands of people over the coming decades.
"It's excellent news for those who have the ability to one day go for Olympic gold and excellent for those who simply want to engage in a range of sporting activities."
Former GB Badminton head coach Andy Wood, from Shardlow, said the arena could lead to Derbyshire producing more Olympic stars.
He said: "I'm extremely excited about what the venue will help people achieve."
The arena will be built on the existing park and ride car park next to Pride Park Stadium, with the venue car park now being built on derelict land next to it.