From the outside, North Merchiston Sports Club may not be the most attractive property to stand back and admire.
Internally, however, after a £250,000 investment, the club now resembles a facility that is sure to prove an appealing and comfortable environment for sports-mad members to enjoy. It reopens its doors tomorrow with improvements such as upgraded changing-rooms, toilets and shower facilities, with disabled access also now a welcome addition.
Club manager, Catherine Cramner, is adamant that despite the alterations which have been made within, the club – which provides opportunities for football, table tennis and martial arts amongst many other sports – will continue to remain true to its historical roots.
“When I first started my job, it wasn’t in the best condition but I quickly realised the history which surrounds the club and the character it has maintained,” she said. “Whilst we wanted to improve the general state of the building, we hope to keep the charm is has and it’s wonderful that so many people have a real affection for the place.”
The redevelopment isn’t solely responsible for providing the club’s board with optimism for a prosperous future. After an initial decline in membership the club has increased both its usage and activity variety to great effect. Furthermore, the celebration of 90 years since its inception in 1921, not forgetting the award of the Capital’s Sports Club of the Year for 2010, has restored the community’s admiration for a rewarding institution.
“We have such a diverse range in people who are using the club now from babies to people who are in their 80s.” Cramner said. “It’s not just a sports club but a facility for the whole community to use. We have about 550 members with hundreds more who use the facility regularly so we’ve had a dramatic increase from about two years ago when we had less than 200 members.
“The club is now thriving which is exactly what the board wanted to achieve as it was only a short time since we had only four or five activities on the go, but now this number is over twenty.”
Cramner cannot express her gratitude enough for the kindness and generosity received from a number of sources who have shown enormous commitment. The support received has transformed a dream into reality, whilst retaining the sentimental treasures and memorabilia of the club from the last century.
“Sportscotland provided us with about 50 per cent of what we needed to make the changes. It is quite a long application process but they want to be sure the money they are investing is going to be here for many years to come. There have also been contributions from a wide range of other sources including individual members so it’s been great. In this day and age where there are so many demands, it’s excellent so many felt we deserved to receive the money we required to improve the club.”
The project doesn’t stop here however. The facility based in the city’s Polwarth area has been earmarked for further renovation. But Cramner admits the notion for further work carried out is at a very early stage.
She added: “We’ve had some ideas and suggestions made at what we’d like to do next. We’re viewing the work that has just been completed as phase one of the project. Our sports halls heating needs upgraded but I’d also like to have a new canteen and kitchen area which I think would be a huge plus for the club. I just hope people will still be coming here 50 years from now and look back with fond memories.”
There will be a party of guests accompanying sponsors and donors at the opening and a free, open session for people to try out the equipment.