Edinburgh plans to win national sport centre bid

An artist's impression of one of the indoor sports halls at the Heriot-Watt campus. Picture: Comp
An artist's impression of one of the indoor sports halls at the Heriot-Watt campus. Picture: Comp
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A MAJOR hotel, conference suites and tennis courts are among the plans being drawn up in a bid to win a race to house the National Performance Centre for Sport in Edinburgh’s south-west.

The facilities are tipped to be part of the package presented by Heriot-Watt University, which is vying with Dundee and Stirling to win the rights to host the new £25 million arena.

Three floodlit outdoor football pitches, including a natural grass Hampden-sized pitch, and a 19-court sports hall are all part of stadium plans.

A full-sized indoor synthetic football pitch with seating for 1000 spectators, badminton courts with 500 seats, fitness suites, hydrotherapy pools and athlete accommodation are also guaranteed to be built at the elite facility.

Thirteen sports would be catered for at the centre, including football, rugby, cricket, volleyball, equestrian, basketball and tennis.

The council is helping to stump up an extra £5m for the local bid, with the cash expected to be used on “desirable” facilities like a hotel, beach volleyball courts and grass rugby pitches that could swing the vote in Edinburgh’s favour.

The details emerged as the first image of Edinburgh’s potential world-class centre was released, showing an artist’s impression of one of the indoor sports halls. It would be based near Hearts training ground on the Riccarton university campus.

The bid has been backed by Scottish rugby union star Gavin Hastings and cycling champion Sir Chris Hoy, who have today been named as campaign ambassadors.

Hastings, a former Scotland captain, said Edinburgh’s status as the home of Scottish rugby and Heriot-Watt’s reputation in terms of sports made his home city the logical choice.

He said it was clear not enough money had been spent on sport in Edinburgh for years, with an ageing Meadowbank Stadium a prime example.

Mr Hastings said: “I would love to see a home for Edinburgh rugby at some stage away from Murrayfield.

“I think if we can try and grow our profile of Edinburgh rugby, which in my opinion is an absolute must, over the course of the next ten years, then I just think, with the right investment and facilities, we have a real opportunity to attract real talent.”

The slogan “Go Edinburgh” will be used to promote the Capital’s bid, with the council today launching an online pledge page at www.goedinburgh2016.com.

Members of the public are being encouraged to post messages of support on the site. The Scottish Government wants the centre built by early 2016. An announcement on the preferred bidder will be made this summer. The centre’s use would not be limited to elite athletes, with 30 per cent access set aside for the community and 30 per cent for students.

City sport convener Councillor Richard Lewis said: “With next year’s Commonwealth Games, there is a lot of focus now on sport in the west of the country and it would restore the national balance if Edinburgh’s bid were to be successful.”

THE PERFECT AMBASSADOR

AS well as announcing new investment and unveiling details of their plans for the proposed National Performance Centre for Sport, Edinburgh council and Heriot-Watt University also unveiled two high-profile backers for their bid.

As Britain’s greatest ever Olympian, thanks to his eight gold medals, Sir Chris Hoy – who started his illustrious career at Meadowbank – is seen as the perfect ambassador to take forward the Capital’s bid. And the bid is also being backed by Scottish rugby legend Gavin Hastings.

And the opposition . .

THE Capital faces a fight against fellow shortlisted contenders Dundee and Stirling.

Dundee is bidding to build the complex at Camperdown Country Park, and the site benefits from room to expand in the future as a location for hotels.

Stirling’s pitch for a site in the north of the city is already home to four national sport training centres, and is the base for the Sportscotland institute of sport.