Donald Wilson: Meadowbank will be winner for all sports

Cllr Donald Wilson is culture and communities convener at Edinburgh City Council. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Cllr Donald Wilson is culture and communities convener at Edinburgh City Council. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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Meadowbank is fast becoming a significant regeneration project for Edinburgh and I’m pleased with how close we are to seeing work get under way.

In what has been another milestone month for Meadowbank, members of the finance committee approved the appointment of contractors Graham Construction to redevelop the flagship sports centre. This followed backing from SportScotland for the designs and a pledge of £5m towards the new £45m state-of-the-art facilities.

This progress means Graham Construction will be able to move on site later this year, before demolition of the old venue gets under way in early 2019.

Much like the redevelopment of the St James Centre, once we start to see the stunning new centre rise out of the ashes of the old I think the benefits of this regeneration for the local area will be clear to see.

Key features of the new sports centre will include an outdoor athletics track with a 500-seat stand, 60m six lane indoor athletics track and jumps space, outdoor throws area, two FIFA standard all weather 3G pitches, and a boxing gym with permanent ring. Other elements include office space for Edinburgh Leisure’s headquarters, a café, games halls and courts, plus fitness studios and a gym.

Graham Construction has a strong track record working with the council on a range of projects - most recently St John’s RC Primary in Portobello where feedback has been very positive, throughout the build process and now the school is open. So, they come well placed to take forward the agreed designs and unlock opportunities for local jobs and apprenticeships in the process.

And once built, the stunning new centre will become Edinburgh’s flagship venue for getting fit and active. Designed as a place to participate – rather than spectate – it will be a gateway for residents of any ability to enjoy.

READ MORE: Questions over how new Meadowbank will be paid for

As a council, we need to plan for the current and future needs of our local communities, and this project offers a unique opportunity to support not just the physical health of our residents, but positive mental health changes too.

You can also have your say on what happens with the rest of the site until October 31, as part of the council’s online consultation about a Meadowbank Masterplan.

I myself am a case study of someone who has not participated much in sport , but began to realise in the last few years that I did in fact enjoy keeping fit. I just hadn’t found the right activity for me. Now, four London marathons and an Edinburgh Marathon later, my eyes are open to a whole new hobby and way of life!

This is the type of change a place like the new Meadowbank can bring. Maybe you’re in your later years and would like to try something new that will give you the chance to socialise with others. Or you have a disability, and require an accessible gym. You might be young and excel at football, but find the chance to play on FIFA standard all weather pitches will hone your talents beyond all expectations.

Having a show-stopping building with excellent amenities and a warm welcome for everyone who steps through the doors is what will make the new Meadowbank special and I’m glad we’ve reached this important stage.

Cllr Donald Wilson is culture and communities convener at Edinburgh City Council