Richard Lewis: National sports centre is lasting legacy

An artist's impression of the Heriot-Watt facility
An artist's impression of the Heriot-Watt facility
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THE Scottish Government’s decision to site the National Performance Centre for Sport in Edinburgh is great news for our city, region and the country as a whole.

I’m grateful to the judging panel and Nicola Sturgeon for recognising that, although there were three very strong bids, Edinburgh put forward the best proposal. I also need to thank the many supporters we had, including Lothian Buses, Edinburgh Airport, other local authorities, sports governing bodies, community sport groups, the public who pledged their support, and many others. Together, we made a winning Team Edinburgh.

This is an opportunity to develop a world-class performance facility for sport in our capital city, to prepare Scottish athletes for the world stage, to inspire a generation to be the best that they can be and to create a lasting legacy for sport in Scotland. It is the chance to build a centre from which our sporting success can grow, and the benefits it will bring for the next generation of national sporting stars are obvious.

Of course, Edinburgh already has a proud tradition of producing world-class athletes, such as Sir Chris Hoy, Katherine Grainger, David Wilkie and Allan Wells, and the proposed development will help ensure that Scotland will continue to produce athletes of that quality.

With a full-size indoor 3G football pitch, “Hampden” standard grass pitches, a nine-court sports hall and 100-station fitness studio among the facilities planned for this national centre, the successful bid by Heriot-Watt University is an exciting opportunity to put Edinburgh at the heart of sporting excellence in this country.

The university’s ethos of world-class teaching and learning fits perfectly with the aspirations of the National Performance Centre for Sport. The plans to incorporate access for the local community and sports clubs will bring huge benefits for sport in the city and the site also offers ample opportunity for future expansion should this be required.

Edinburgh already has an enviable reputation as one of the world’s premier events destinations and this will undoubtedly be another string to our bow, another setting in which to showcase our wonderful city to rest of the world. Coaching and other sporting conferences could be a regular fixture in the calendar, generating millions of pounds for the local and national economy.

The site’s close proximity to good transport links, including Edinburgh Airport, M8, M9 and City Bypass, and the newly refurbished Waverley and Haymarket stations, will mean that the centre is accessible to people from across the country.

These are all the benefits, but having won the race to host the centre, the main task begins now for those at Heriot-Watt who are leading this project as they seek to turn ambition into reality for 2016.

The council is fully behind the development and our officers will be working with the university to give it all the support it needs.

And in line with our Capital Coalition pledge to continue to support and invest in Edinburgh’s sporting infrastructure, we have agreed to contribute towards the balance of £5 million required to meet the £30m cost of the project.

Locating the National Performance Centre for Sport in Edinburgh will ensure that the legacy of both the 2012 Olympics and 2014 Commonwealth Games has the best possible chance of inspiring Scotland’s future sporting heroes.

• Councillor Richard Lewis is the city’s convener for culture and sport.