IT has grown from a derelict patch of land behind an unloved leisure centre to one of the Capital’s most impressive sporting complexes.
And now, bosses at the Spartans Community Football Academy say they are preparing for an even brighter future after celebrating a decade of providing a sporting and social hub to thousands of local families.
The Ainslie Park facility marked ten years of operation on Wednesday with a special event invite former and current supporters to the reopening of their state-of-the-art community football pitch.
Initially started as a “social home” for the Spartans Football Club, the academy has quickly become part of the community in North Edinburgh, providing youth club and employment opportunities for young people in the area.
But chief executive Douglas Samuel insists there is much more to come from the academy, adding they have big plans for 2019.
Mr Samuel said: “When we opened the doors back in 2008, I didn’t expect us to be doing so much across so many different thematic areas. I’m extremely proud of how far we’ve come but there remains lots to do.
“In 2019 we will be launching a new programme in local primary schools using VR-based technology. We are also looking to create a new personal development programme to help tackle mental health related issues in young people.”
He added: “The passion and desire to help others is the energy which drives us. I hope we have inspired others, in particular young people, to have high aspirations and expectations for themselves as they progress through life.”
The academy now welcomes as many as 300,000 people through its doors every year, while the 3,000-capacity stadium has played host to international sporting stars of several disciplines, as well as current tenants Edinburgh City FC.
Douglas recalled: “We had experienced a few delays, so we were desperate to move into our new home.”
“The first night, we welcomed our women’s first team, who were coached by Shelley Kerr at the time, on to the pitch. We were full of excitement.”
Mr Samuel continued: “In terms of highlights, there really are too many to mention, but to be able to welcome and host the All Blacks for a training session back in 2010 is something none of us will ever forget.”
As part of the celebrations, children and adults donating to the organisation’s community food bank ahead of Spartans’ men’s first team clash with Vale of Leithen on Saturday will be able to watch the game for free.
And Douglas said he hopes to inspire a new generation of youngsters to embrace the facility.
“For me it’s each and every time a young person reveals to themselves that something they and others thought they couldn’t do, is actually do-able,” he said. “It’s all of the unseen ripples, the small acts of kindness which no one sees, that’s where the real magic exists on a daily basis.”