Sports Centre proposals offer glimpse into sporting future

An artist's birds-eye impression of what the Sports Centre will look like once the proposed renovations are complete

The second stage of the eagerly-anticipated major redevelopment of the Sports Centre is now underway, in a bid to improve the sporting experience in St Andrews for both students and non-students alike.

The recently-released website dedicated to the redevelopment outlines the plans for 2015 and claims the changes will give the Sports Centre a “significantly greater capacity”, which will hopefully quell some of the current problems. At peak hours the 75-person capacity of the fitness suite is more often than not filled, leading to lengthy waiting lists. In the past this backlog typically forms after lectures, from about 4pm to around 8pm. However the Sports Centre has said that recently the backlog has started beginning at closer to 3pm. Due to its comparatively small size, students using the gym during these hours have to spend extra time waiting to use the equipment, which can lead to further overcrowding.

In the current plans, the expansion of the gym is not one of the top priorities. The hope is that after the initial 2015 redevelopments any of the budget that is left over will be spent on converting the gym into a new 130-station fitness suite with more allocated space for strength and conditioning. The Athletic Union are also hoping to build a boat house off-site at the River Tay. At the moment, all boats are kept tied to the grass of a sailing club near Perth.

These precede the final plans for the Sport Centre which culminates in the building of a four-court indoor tennis hall adjacent to the current building.

This phase of the redevelopment has a University Court approved £5.5 million budget which is completely separate to the budget allocated for the 2012 work on the Sports Centre and its facilities.

After the major changes in 2012, expectation for this year’s redevelopments are high. In 2012, the improvement of the grass pitches, refurbishment of the pavilion and facilities, resurfacing of the tennis courts and sand dressed hockey pitches – not to mention the implementation of a world class synthetic 3G pitch for lacrosse, rugby and football, upon which such footballing powerhouses as Barcelona and Manchester City have trained – all laid the groundwork for what many believed a true overhaul of an outdated Sports Centre.

The concrete plans for 2015 are less headline-making, however. After the student-orientated initial redevelopment, this year’s plans focus majorly, but not exclusively, on the logistical and administrative side of the Sports Centre.

There is to be a temporary new car park installed at the rear of the building to increase the parking capacity. St Leonards’ road is also to be widened to allow easier two-way access. In its current state it is a two-way street more in name than practice.

Furthermore, there is to be a new reception area installed, as well as the creation of 6 more changing rooms to combat the overcrowding that can afflict the Sports Centre at busy times. These changing rooms will go hand-in-hand with the new eight-court sports hall. There is a lot of impetus for indoor sports after the relaying of the floor in the current sports hall to make it brighter, and importantly, softer on the knees and ankles of athletes. The new sports hall will have removable seating which will be able to hold up to 400 people as the Athletic Union push to popularise sports such as basketball, volleyball and other sports consigned to four walls.

This is all part of a plan to create the “opportunity to participate in a far wider variety of sports at higher levels”; a wider initiative to increase participation in sport across the university at all levels. In an interview at the beginning of her tenure, the Athletic Union president Sarah Thompson made it clear her onus was on getting more students involved at both competitive and non-competitive levels.

Saying that, for those hoping for a swift conclusion to building work that is bound to cause an inconvenience to all Sport Centre users, there is bound to be disappointment – the designated time-scale is just under 12 months. Ms Thompson commented that building work was planned with the idea that students would be able to return from the Christmas break of next academic year (January 2016) with a fully refurbished Sports Centre.

However, it is only the new sports hall that will actually take 12 months. The other phases of redevelopment will be completed at separate intervals throughout the year, with the intention of causing minimal disruption. For such plans to be instigated, inconvenience is unavoidable, and the Athletic Union are doing all they can do maximise the student sporting experience in the meantime.

With the new website up-and-running and building work starting, the tangible effects of the redevelopment are starting to take root, and students will soon be able to see the changes in front of their own eyes.


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