Exclusive: Hearts' £20m plan for a new training ground explained by chief executive Andrew McKinlay
A new training ground will cost Hearts upwards of £20million as the club begin exploring and researching what would be a five-year project.
Chief executive Andrew McKinlay spoke to the Evening News today about potential long-term plans to move away from the Heriot-Watt University campus at Riccarton, where Hearts teams of all ages have trained since 2004.
The Oriam Scotland National Performance Complex opened on the same site in 2016 and the Tynecastle side must book some facilities in advance, including the indoor astroturf pitch, in order to use them.
They are also in the public eye daily and would prefer a more private, exclusive venue. While not ruling out an improved arrangement with Oriam, Hearts are looking at options to build their own training facility when their lease expires in 2029.
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“The issue with Oriam is not facilities, it's the access to them. We don't have exclusivity,” said McKinlay. “Maybe Oriam could accommodate us by giving us greater exclusivity and we could start to look at that over the next few years, so I wouldn't entirely write them off. It would have to be on a very different basis from what we have just now.
“We would have certain areas and pitches that only we got to use. Whether Oriam can do that or not, they would need to answer that question. We have certainly told them. If that isn't possible, we would have to go somewhere else.”
Space around Edinburgh is at a premium and McKinlay recently visited Aberdeen’s Cormack Park training ground to assess its facilities. “It would be about finding somewhere. I'm keen for all the land owners in Midlothian and West Lothian not to smell us coming,” he laughed.
“If there's any massive Hearts fan out there, a farmer or someone with a bit of land they would like us to look at for a training ground, then I'd definitely welcome that opportunity.
“In seriousness, in the next couple of years we will start looking at where we might go if we are going to do that. It would then become a five-year project if we are really serious.
“I went up to Aberdeen to see their training ground to get an idea of what you get for £14m. Aberdeen don't have an indoor training area at the moment, although they are looking to add one.
“I think it's vital to have some sort of indoor training facility as well as outdoor but that just adds cost. We just want to have somewhere we call our own so all options are being considered.
“I think you're looking at circa £20m to do something of an appropriate level. That's definitely the ballpark you must be in. That figure is based on today's pricing so, in seven years' time, it would be more. Construction price inflation is massive just now.
“We haven't discussed this at board level but it might be that we look at loaning some money. We have no debt as a club, other than a little bit to [chairwoman] Ann Budge which will be paid off over the next couple of years.
“There are various ways. We also have very generous benefactors, so who knows? It's definitely something in there as a medium to long-term project which we will be looking at.”