Hibs chief executive Leeann Dempster has revealed ambitious plans to build a full-sized indoor pitch at the club’s East Mains training centre.
The Easter Road players already enjoy the use of a “barn” at the £5 million base during bad weather but it isn’t big enough to stage anything other than short-sided games.
Dempster is determined that investment be made in providing boss Neil Lennon and his players with the best possible facilities while ensuring funds are made available to further strengthen the squad as the Capital outfit seek to build on their highly successful return to the Premiership.
The artificial surface laid when the training centre was opened more than ten years ago has been replaced in recent weeks in what was a “significant” investment but, insisted Dempster, the ambition is to continue the development of the site situated between Tranent and Ormiston which is the envy of most top-flight clubs.
And those plans include opening up East Mains to greater community use.
Dempster admitted there is a “real pride” around Easter Road at the moment stemming from that historic Scottish Cup triumph, the Championship title and promotion, another tilt at the Europa League thanks to finishing fourth in the league, successes mirrored by the club’s Under-20s lifting the SPFL Development League title and SFA Youth Cup while Hibs Ladies recently won a third consecutive SWPL Cup with a 9-0 demolition of Celtic.
But, she insisted, no-one is content to rest on their laurels, saying: “Everybody knows what the goal of the club is, the philosophy, the DNA. Everyone had one big goal for three years which was to get promoted and between times we won the Scottish Cup.
“There’s a real pride around the club, not just the first team but every aspect of it, the wonderful successes the women have had, the youngsters winning the double.
“But it all goes back to that philosophy and DNA, a plan going forward which we are still moulding and developing. We continue to add to the structure, more investment in the academy, more coaches, more medical staff and so on.
“We have installed a brand new full-sized astro pitch which is a significant investment and there are still ongoing plans to develop HTC (Hibs Training Centre) further.
“We need an indoor environment and we are working hard to be able to do it, looking at ways we can finance that work with partners to make it happen, our own dedicated indoor environment.”
Lennon’s first-team squad will, naturally, have first call on the facilities at East Mains but, revealed Dempster, there are plans to widen the use of the centre, to make it a “community asset.”
She said: “When you go down to HTC you will see community teams, community events, local people. We protect the first-team environment and make sure they have all they need, all the access they need. But the site is huge. It’s 90 acres so why would we not open it up for others, to encourage others to use it so long as it doesn’t impact on the first team.”
The emphasis on closer links with supporters and the community in Leith and further afield in Lothian have been central to Dempster’s vision for Hibs and, she believes, they have been “re-invigorated” by the journey Hibs have been on over the last four years as they have emerged from the dark days of that shock relegation.
But, she also feels there has been a re-emergence of football in Edinburgh with both Hibs and Hearts coming back from difficult periods in their histories, the Easter Road club themselves having sold a record 13,500 season tickets while enjoying average home gates of 18,100, the highest in some 60 years.