Athletics body could make dash for new sports village

An artist's impressions of the proposed National Performance Centre for Sport. Picture: Comp
An artist's impressions of the proposed National Performance Centre for Sport. Picture: Comp
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THE governing body for athletics in Scotland is considering relocating its base to a new elite sports village being built in west Edinburgh.

Scottishathletics has entered into talks with Heriot-Watt University over options for the new £30 million National Performance Centre for Sport.

Construction work to build the centre at the university’s Riccarton campus is due to start in spring next year after Edinburgh won the right to host the world-class facility.

Thirteen sports will be catered for at the arena ­including football, rugby, tennis and basketball, but ­athletics was not part of the original blueprint.

Discussions have been initiated by scottishathletics with university chiefs and Edinburgh City Council since the bid was won last month in a bid to play some part in the development.

Access for athletes to the centre’s 100-station fitness suite and hydrotherapy, strength and conditioning, and treatment areas will be discussed, as well as the potential for a running track to be ­developed.

Scottishathletics is based in Caledonia House at South Gyle, but is likely to at least consider shifting to Heriot-Watt if there are attractive terms.

Any decision to build an ­outdoor track at the centre would be outside the £30 million set aside and would require extra investment.

Scottishathletics chief executive Nigel Holl said: “We recognised that actually the real detailed opportunities for engagement would happen once the preferred bidder was identified. Now that it is Heriot-Watt, we think that gives some excellent opportunities. We’re having fairly high level discussions about any options that may exist. The key thing being that actually from an athletics perspective – and being very selfish about ­athletics – we need to make sure we’ve got the right mix of facilities in the right locations across Scotland.”

The talks are likely to fan fears about ­Meadowbank Stadium’s future, and Mr Holl recognised any new athletics facilities could affect Meaowbank.

A working party has been formed to make a decision on the stadium while The Sports Consultancy, Deloitte Real Estate and Edinburgh-based architects Reiach and Hall are drawing up a blueprint for the venue’s proposed overhaul.

Lothian Greens MSP Alison Johnstone – a qualified UK athletics coach and former runner – said she was surprised a running track had not been put forward in original plans.

She said: “I would suggest that a National Performance Centre for Sport should have an athletics track. Everyone playing sport from football to volleyball to basketball could use an athletics facility too. It’s the basis of a lot of other sports in terms of the exercise that you can perform on a track. It makes a lot of sense to explore the options, but clearly I wouldn’t want anyone to forget there are other facilities in the city that are tired and would benefit from significant investment at this point of time.

“There’s a great deal of affection for Meadowbank. It’s not just some form of nostalgia – it happens to be near a very large centre of population.”

The performance centre at Heriot-Watt is due to open by January 2016. An Edinburgh council spokeswoman said: “The council is mindful of the needs of Scottish Athletics and will continue to work with them on a broad range of projects, including the current assessment of options for Meadowbank sports centre and stadium.”