THE first images of stadium development plans for Scotland’s oldest rugby team have been released, as club chiefs insisted the plans were vital to the club’s survival.
Edinburgh Accies are set to transform their historic ground at Raeburn Place into a modern rugby hub complete with 5000-capacity stadium, clubhouse, training studios and four retail outlets.
Accies’ rugby and cricket squads, along with the Broughton Accies Trinity team, would share the main pitch, with two smaller pitches being used for mini rugby and cricket.
The ambitious project is likely to be financed by investors close to the club, with much of the gate, retail and clubhouse revenue being ploughed back to maintain the ground and fund future development.
A heritage museum to promote the 158-year history of the Accies, credited with introducing rugby to Scotland, could also form part of the development.
Talks have been held with VisitScotland over the museum, thought to chime with its strategy to increase visitor footfall outwith the city centre.
Edinburgh Accies have struggled for ten years to build a new clubhouse and have been using temporary structures as changing rooms.
Along with Festival Inns, they won permission for a £15 million hotel and rugby clubhouse at Raeburn Place in 2005 but the scheme was shelved, with contractor delays and the economic downturn blamed.
After being briefly revived in 2010 it collapsed altogether when the pub group dissolved.
Confirming that an initial planning notice had been submitted, Frank Spratt, executive chairman of Edinburgh Accies, said: “From the club’s point of view we would want to stress that the status quo is not sustainable and we can only afford to remain in the temporary accommodation for a limited time.
“What we are proposing will sustain sport, principally rugby and cricket, at Raeburn Place for many years to come. However, we want to do more than just survive as a club, we also want to thrive.
“I know from visits I have taken with my business partner to a number of English clubs that we in Scotland are very far behind with facilities and the funding of the game.
“In essence, our scheme allows for new changing facilities with areas for fitness, physiotherapy and adjoining function spaces. We have also allowed space for a museum and, to help fund the club going forward and sustain sport at Raeburn Place, we are proposing some commercial/retail space to be built.”
David Chamberlain, treasurer of Stockbridge/Inverleith Community Council, said the proposal was a “massive development” likely to provoke some concern locally.
“I think modern shops built into the side of the stadium will be quite intimidating,” he said. “It’s certainly not in keeping with the Victorian and Georgian architecture of the area.
“I have not heard any noises about the plans but I suspect there will be reaction against it.”
Plans will be exhibited at the Accies’ temporary clubhouse at the corner of Comely Bank Road and North Park Terrace today from 4pm to 8pm and tomorrow between 2pm and 5pm and will remain on display in the clubhouse until May 14.