Improvements to the athletics track and indoor facilities to be made within the next 12 months as part of wider plans to give historic arena a major facelift

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has promised to invest in redeveloping Crystal Palace National Sports Centre with the crumbling athletics facilities to be repaired and indoor facilities improved within the next year.

Khan announced the “once-in-a-generation redevelopment” on Friday (May 26) but warned the development is complex and will take around five years to complete. However, immediate improvements in the next 12 months include:

  • Repairing the athletics track and installing replacement floodlighting
  • Reopening the climbing walls in the indoor centre
  • Upgrading the fitness gym

He said: “Crystal Palace National Sports Centre is a historic and much-loved sporting and community facility where many UK sporting stars have started their careers and trained, but which is in need of major investment and refurbishment.

“I am completely committed to this once-in-a-generation redevelopment of the site which will secure its future for decades to come.

“While work continues apace on our vision for the long-term future of the centre, I am delighted to announce that we intend to make a number of early improvements that we hope will make a huge difference to users of the centre.

“Over the coming months, we will continue to work closely with key stakeholders – including sporting bodies and wider community groups – to deliver an outstanding venue that our capital and our country can be proud of.”

The Mayor hopes that a planning application for the comprehensive redevelopment of the centre will be brought forward by April 2024 and that a contractor will be able to start work in 2025.

Crystal Palace (Mark Shearman)

There have been big fears that the centre would simply be demolished and as recently as November parts of the centre were closed due to fears over concrete pillars underneath floodlights. There have been a few false dawns too where promising plans have come to nothing.

The south London venue held the AAA Championships from 1971-1987 and many still regard it as the spiritual home of British athletics. In 2014 the stadium was threatened with demolition. Although in 2015 UK Athletics called for the retention of the facilities, mainly so that the large number of athletes based in the south London area would have a good indoor and outdoor training track.

Hugh Brasher, Event Director of London Marathon Events, said: “For more than four decades, the famous Crystal Palace stadium hosted some of the greatest international athletics events staged in the UK in front of sellout crowds and the track is part of an extensive sports complex with a wonderful heritage.

‘The Mayor’s commitment to the redevelopment of the Crystal Palace site is fantastic news for athletics, aquatics and many other sports. London Marathon Events and the London Marathon Foundation are keen to support this visionary future to restore Crystal Palace as a much-needed sporting and community facility.”

A revitalised Crystal Palace could eventually provide UK Athletics with an alternative home to the problematic London Stadium as the centrepiece for the sport in the capital.

John Powell, chair of the Crystal Palace Sports Partnership, told The Times: “Hopefully this will spell the end of the managed decline we have seen over the years. I’m so pleased the Mayor’s office has finally recognised the unique needs of Crystal Palace and the uniqueness of its potential.”

You can read the full announcement here.

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