Over 400 people ignored the attraction of the Edinburgh Festival to attend last night’s Save Meadowbank public meeting and call for the site to be refurbished.
Campaigners highlighted the £30 million “black hole” in the Council’s current plans and the fact that most of the working group – including a majority of councillors – disagreed with its chairman’s view on refurbishment.
They then heard speeches of support from former sportsmen Scott Hastings, Chris Black and Ross Hepburn plus David Hoy, father of Olympic cyclist Chris.
Rugby legend Scott Hastings told the meeting Meadowbank had played a large part in his sporting development. He said: “This facility gave people like me an opportunity. It is an ideal central location, not only because of the track but because it has Holyrood Park nearby. We have to put the magic back into Meadowbank.”
David Hoy called for the velodrome to be retained. He said: “It is the only velodrome in Scotland. Without it we will lose a history and a heritage which, since 1976, has produced countless champions. Without the velodrome and the coaching support structure at Meadowbank, Chris Hoy, Craig MacLean, Ross Edgar, James Macallum and Kate Cullen would not have won Olympic, World and Commonwealth medals.
“Edinburgh Council has invested tens of thousands of pounds in grant aid to the Edinburgh Racers Youth Club. Without the velodrome at Meadowbank, they will be no more. We will lose the champions of the future and there will be no cycling medals won at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.”
Ross Hepburn broke high jump records at Meadowbank. He recently returned to Scotland after a long absence and told the meeting he couldn’t believe how Meadowbank had been left to fall into disrepair. “What disappoints me is the decay. I am so disappointed coming here to see a place like this rotting away.”
Five community councils also spoke in favour of retaining Meadowbank, including Keith Bell of Sighthill community council who said his area was happy for the facility to remain where it is because they didn’t want the proposed new stadium at Sighthill.
Former MSP Colin Fox paid tribute to the Save Meadowbank campaign. “This campaign is based on honesty and integrity. You deserve all the credit in the world for keeping this place open.”
Current councillors Gary Peacock (Lib Dem), Alison Johnstone (Green) and Rob Munn (SNP) said they wanted the Council to establish how much it would cost to refurbish Meadowbank. Said Munn: “We have changed our position because we have been listening.”
Former Council leader Ewan Aitken concluded the meeting by admitting mistakes had been made and that he had changed his mind. He said: “I want us to end up here, I really do.”
Campaign spokesman Kevin Connor thanked everyone for attending. “This proves yet again that lots of people are prepared to take action. Between us all we really can Save Meadowbank.
“We have campaigned to retain the whole of the Meadowbank site and to have it refurbished in a realistic and affordable way. We call on the new administration to listen to the majority view on the working group and fully investigate their options, including funding, so that all facilities can be retained here on the entire site.”
Councillors will consider the working group chairman’s report when they meet at the City Chambers on Thursday. Campaigners urge people to turn up at 09:30 BST to greet councillors as they arrive for the meeting.