OLYMPIC beach volleyball star Shauna Mullin is backing radical moves to transform flagging bowling greens into Edinburgh’s version of Venice Beach.
The London 2012 heroine said replacing the greens at Leith Links Bowling Club with sand would create the first national beach volleyball base in Scotland and inject new life into a sport more associated with the sun-kissed bays of California than a grassy plot in Leith.
The surprise bid – launched by Scottish Volleyball Association (SVA) – is part of a major overhaul of seven city-owned greens with declining memberships that could see them converted into tennis courts, petanque pits or allotments. It is thought £50,000 would be needed to complete the transformation from bowling green to beach volleyball courts.
Today, Mullin, 29, a British poster girl for the sport, said the move would breathe new life into Scottish volleyball and help develop raw talent.
She said: “It can only be a positive thing for the sport because you have to build the champions of the future from the ground up. The plans are amazing. To have this type of facility in Edinburgh provides opportunities to grow the grassroots, rather than relying on people leaving Scotland to practise the sport in different countries.
“People who are the most successful at volleyball are the ones who love the sport and want to live and breathe it from the beginning. I think this could be absolutely fantastic for Scotland, for Edinburgh and beach volleyball.”
SVA chiefs are working to secure sufficient funding to make the four-court sand arena a reality and insist they are “committed” to the project.
SVA chief executive Margaret Ann Fleming said: “This is an innovative idea to use an area that isn’t being used by the public so much and convert it into something that’s more viable and attractive to younger people.
“We have been trying to make a home for beach volleyball and we see this as a potential area for us. We want to use this as a launch pad for the sport. It’s breaking the taboo that this has to be played on a beach or you have to live in a coastal town to do it. Predominantly, some of the biggest beach volleyball tournaments are actually in city centres with purpose-built beach courts and facilities around them. There is no reason not to try the same thing with the Leith Links site.”
During the London Olympics the sport was played on a specially created court at Horse Guards Parade. Its possible introduction is sure to prove a popular with younger sports enthusiasts. However, bowling sources have bemoaned the loss of a way of life – and a sport which has been beset by closures and strife in recent years.
Despite this Councillor Lesley Hinds, transport and environment convener, said she is sure the plans will “make the best use of local sites to provide new and exciting opportunities for the community, potentially improving facilities for both young, disabled and elderly people”.
BOWLED OVER BY OTHER LEISURE PURSUITS
SEVEN of Edinburgh’s 15 city-owned greens have been targeted for alternative uses following a seismic decline in popularity since 2007.
Tennis courts could replace a green at Balgreen, while Broughton Primary School has suggested using space at Powderhall for sporting and food growing activities.
Edinburgh Leisure decided to close Portobello Indoor Bowling Centre in June last year after visitor numbers were found to have dropped significantly over the previous five years. The centre is being converted into a soft play area and gymnastics hub.