Edinburgh to get £30m elite Scottish sport academy

An artist's impression of the proposed National Performance Centre for Sport to be built at the Heriot Watt University campus. Picture: Comp
An artist's impression of the proposed National Performance Centre for Sport to be built at the Heriot Watt University campus. Picture: Comp
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EDINBURGH was today named as the location for Scotland’s new elite sports village designed to nurture the champions of the future.

The Capital has beaten off competition from Stirling and Dundee to win the right to host the £30 million National Performance Centre for Sport, which will offer world-class training facilities for individual athletes and squads, as well as top coaching and cutting-edge sports medicine.

The development will include a 170-bed mid-market hotel and three outdoor tennis courts on top of an eye-catching indoor Hampden replica football pitch.

Construction at Heriot-Watt University’s Riccarton campus is scheduled to get under way in spring next year, with the centre due to be up and running by January 2016.

Edinburgh’s bid was backed by leading figures from the world of sport, including Sir Steve Redgrave, Sir Chris Hoy and Gavin Hastings.

Making the announcement today, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “The National Performance Centre for Sport will be the jewel in the crown for Scottish sport and help turn dreams into reality.

“It will be the best place for our elite athletes to mentally and physically prepare to compete on the world stage, helping more Scots to win, more often.”

She said the winning bid, put together by Heriot-Watt and the city council, had presented an inspiring vision which clearly demonstrated a positive commitment to developing high performance and a strong focus on partnership.

“I am confident they will deliver an iconic project, in a great setting, that takes Scottish sport on to a new level,” she said.

The development is being financed with a £25m investment from the Scottish Government and contributions of £2.5m each from Heriot-Watt and the city council.

The centre will support the high-performance needs of football, rugby and volleyball, while offering additional dedicated support to athletics, badminton, basketball, cricket, fencing, handball, hockey, netball, shinty and squash.

Professor Steve Chapman, principal of Heriot-Watt University, said today’s announcement was “tremendous news”.

He said: “We have the go-ahead to create a world class sporting facility, combining the expertise we already have at Heriot-Watt, with a tremendous location, design and setting which have proved a winning formula and will continue to do so for Scotland’s up and coming sports men and women.

“Our real reward, however, isn’t winning the bid, but will come when the Centre is up and running and we can see it making a real difference to Scotland’s sporting future.”

City council sports convener Richard Lewis said: “This is absolutely fantastic news for Edinburgh and all those who love sport across Scotland. Heriot-Watt University and the Capital will provide an excellent home to the next generation of top athletes and those involved in helping them achieve their aims.

“Our bid enjoyed great support from the community and local sport groups will also be able to take advantage of this world-class facility on their doorstep.”

The development will include a 170-bed mid-market hotel and three outdoor tennis courts on top of an eye-catching indoor Hampden replica football pitch.

Stewart Harris, chief executive of Sportscotland, said: “Today is a very significant day for sport in Scotland as the National Performance Centre for Sport is a tremendous addition to Scotland’s sporting facilities.

“This new multi-sport performance centre will complement the terrific facilities we already have in Scotland, and assist our high performance athletes in honing their skills and delivering on the world stage.”

Rugby star Gavin Hastings and cycling champion Sir Chris Hoy served as ambassadors for the campaign, which worked under the slogan “Go Edinburgh”.

Hastings, a former Scotland captain, said Edinburgh was the logical choice and argued not enough money had been spent on sport in Edinburgh for years, with an ageing Meadowbank stadium a prime example.

And Sir Chris described Edinburgh as the “natural home” for the vast new sports village.

Scottish Rugby named the Capital as its preferred location for a national training base, with director of commercial operations Dominic McKay saying Heriot-Watt would be the “closest fit” for their requirements.

The Riccarton site also has the advantage that it offers plenty of scope for future expansion.

Edinburgh Airport and Lothian Buses backed the bid, along with the Edinburgh Business Forum, whose members include Harvey Nichols, Morton Fraser and the National 
Galleries of Scotland.

The Edinburgh bid also won the backing of more MSPs than Dundee or Stirling. Lothian Labour MSP Sarah Boyack cited Heriot-Watt’s “stellar” reputation in the sporting field but said the most attractive element was the potential of the centre to open opportunities for local community groups, sports clubs and students to get involved in sport.

The Scottish Government announced plans for a national performance centre early last year, saying all of Scotland’s international teams, from the senior squad to the youths, would use the academy for training camps and preparation for matches.

When the first stage of bidding to host the new centre closed back in February this year, there were six applications from across Scotland.

A steering group, chaired by Stewart Regan, chief executive of the Scottish Football Association, recommended three bids - from Midlothian, Perth and Kinross and St Andrews - were rejected while more detailed proposals were invited from Edinburgh, Stirling and Dundee.

The stage-two applications were submitted in July. The steering group visited each of the proposed sites on August 1 and final presentations were made a week later.

The steering group unanimous recommended the new National Performance Centre for Sport should be based in Edinburgh.

Ms Sturgeon said: “Our vision for sport builds on the tremendous expertise at the Sportscotland Institute of Sport and complements the increasing number of world-class facilities across Scotland where elite athletes are training, such as the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome and the refurbished Royal Commonwealth Pool.”

What the national sporting vision will mean for capital

Back of the net! The £30 million coup is likely to provide a major jobs boost for the city – while cementing our reputation as a centre of sporting excellence.

The centre will include:

• a full-sized 3G indoor football pitch with seating for 500;

• a Hampden-sized grass pitch with seating for 500;

• a synthetic 3G pitch;

• two goalkeeper training areas with floodlights;

• two grass rugby pitches;

• five grass football pitches;

• three outdoor tennis courts;

• a nine-court sports hall;

• a 100-station fitness suite;

• hydrotherapy, strength and conditioning and treatment areas.

It will also have office accommodation for sport governing bodies, as well as taking in the existing facilities at the university’s Centre for Sport and Exercise.

The world-class indoor football pitch that rivals the standard of Hampden Park will be the jewel in the crown of the new sports village.

It will boast an unusual roof designed by leading Scottish architects Reiach and Hall. It is based on the wonder strike by Brazilian Roberto Carlos against France in 1997, with the trajectory and angle of the ceiling mirroring a goal rated one of the greatest in football history.

A 170-bed mid-market hotel will be constructed on the site for visiting athletes and coaches. A tree-lined promenade will connect the nine-court sports hall, fitness suite, and world-class sports science and medicine facilities around the main building.

The team organised to sell Edinburgh’s bid had promoted the city’s large population, Heriot-Watt’s sporting expertise and the backing of the country’s rugby officials as the main strengths of the triumphant bid. One of the stops of the £776m tram line – Edinburgh Park – will also be less than two miles from the campus.

The council committing early to putting cash towards it is also thought to have helped.

More than 4000 pledges of support for Edinburgh were received from the public, sports clubs, businesses and neighbouring local authorities.