the Meadowbank Stadium saga is one of the longest running and least glorious in the Capital’s sporting history. It is now 12 years since we were first told that the old stadium was “nearing the end of its natural life” and should be demolished.
In the intervening years, other cities, such as Glasgow, Aberdeen and Stirling, have built exciting new sports facilities, while in Edinburgh we have struggled to run to standstill. The ageing Commie Pool has been brought back to its impressive best but, other than that, little has changed, apart from Meadowbank continuing to crumble.
The news that the National Performance Centre for Sport will be built at Riccarton is of course a notable exception. That is a great boon for Edinburgh, but does not change the fact that our public sports facilities where large numbers of people go to play and watch games have been badly neglected.
It is exciting to see at last a serious attempt to tackle that. The plans to create a new “sports village” at Meadowbank are the most significant since the idea of an athletics and rugby arena at Sighthill were thrown out six years ago.
The thousands who use the current centre will be excited to see exactly what we might get – and what we might lose – under this new plan. Selling off part of the Meadowbank site is pragmatic at a time when public funds are extremely short. Perhaps it is a sacrifice worth making to ensure that we are not sitting here in five years time still bemoaning the rundown state of the city’s biggest public sports centre. But there is also a risk in playing safe that we lose our ambition.
Whatever we eventually build at Meadowbank will hopefully serve the city for 30 to 40 years. The funding available will not always be so tight. What we must ask ourselves is whether the redevelopment plans are really the very best that we can do for Scotland’s capital?