A new athletics track for Utilita Arena Birmingham, purchased by Birmingham City Council, is set to host its first event this weekend in the shape of the UK Athletics Indoor Championships.
The track replaces the original, used at the city centre venue since its opening in 1991 – with the £1.7million investment acting as a catalyst for the council to secure a ten-year event partnership with UK Athletics, which underlines Birmingham’s status as the home of indoor athletics.
Under the terms of the deal, the city will be host to both the UK Athletics Indoor Championships and Indoor Grand Prix events annually until February 2032.
At this weekend’s first event (February 18-19), athletes will be competing for GB & NI team places for the European Indoor Championships in Istanbul (March 2-5).
And just a week later, the Birmingham Indoor World Tour Final 2023 (aka Indoor Grand Prix Birmingham) – featuring some of the best athletes in the world – will be staged on February 25.
In addition, a programme of community activity is also being developed to ensure the use of the asset is maximised during the times it is in situ at Utilita Arena Birmingham.
For 2023, the programme includes a day for Birmingham Children’s Trust and Sport Birmingham, during which children, families and carers will take part in a range of sporting taster sessions on the track.
The council has also worked Birchfield Harriers to enable members of the athletics club use the facilities for training sessions, without which they would have to travel 70 miles to use a banked track. Club officials say this arrangement will provide a sustainable platform and help grow back the talent base that is undoubtedly out there waiting to be uncovered locally.
Cllr Ian Ward, Leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “This investment in a new track underlines our commitment to major events in Birmingham as part of the city’s Golden Decade of opportunity.
“The benefits of hosting such events is clear – both for the local economy and residents. We’ve made every effort to ensure there is a community benefit from our purchasing power and the events we stage. This is a great example of what we are doing in order to achieve this.
“As a city that loves its sport, we’re all looking forward to the first events to use the new indoor track and how this partnership develops and supports our communities.”
Jack Buckner, CEO of UK Athletics, said: “We’re delighted that the UK Athletics Indoor Championships will be the first event to benefit from this state-of-the-art new indoor Mondo track. This is a fantastic arena and the sport has been privileged to host the best athletes in the world here year after year.
“The investment in this new track shows how important athletics is to Birmingham and I can’t wait to see it in action this weekend as well as during next week’s World Indoor Tour Final.”
Hannah England, former GB & NI middle-distance athlete and World Championships silver medallist, who lives in Birmingham, said: “It is so exciting to see the new track installed ahead of this weekend! As an athlete I loved the indoor season and competing here in Birmingham was always a thrill as this is a great arena for athletics.
“Living here in Birmingham I have seen first-hand the huge investment in the athletics facilities and it is brilliant to see such a strong legacy for the sport following the Commonwealth Games.”
Guy Dunstan, Managing Director of NEC Group Ticketing & Arenas, added: “Birmingham has become synonymous with sport, and this track investment is only going to solidify our position further as the home of indoor athletics. A great addition to the world-class facilities we offer athletes and visitors at the Arena.”
The tender to supply the council was won by DYNAMIK Sports Floors who engaged Solihull-based Neon Arena Services as their delivery partner – which will use 23 locally-based employees to build, maintain and store the track on an annual basis.
As part of their social value commitments, Neon will provide track support (managing equipment such as the hurdles and starting blocks) free of charge for the community events held in between the elite meetings.
Nick East, Managing Director of Neon Arena Services, said: “Being awarded this contract for the next five years has helped us tremendously by giving us the confidence to be able to retain our local workforce with particular skillsets, and grow the team on both the installation and event management side.
“We are extremely thankful Birmingham City Council’s commitment to attracting quality sports events into the city has enabled our business to grow from strength-to-strength on both a local and national basis since the return of live events post-Covid.”
The track itself is from Mondo, a partner of World Athletics and the world leaders for demountable tracks and running surfaces.