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Inverness College UHI secures £300,000 funding from sportscotland to complete the installation of a £1 million all-weather, synthetic sports pitch at Inverness Campus


By Ian Duncan

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An aerial visual of the proposed sports pitch.
An aerial visual of the proposed sports pitch.

Inverness College UHI has been awarded £300,000 by sportscotland to complete the installation of an all-weather, synthetic sports pitch at Inverness Campus.

Funding for the £1 million pitch has already been secured from Inverness College UHI’s Foundation, Highland Council developer contribution funding and the Town Centre Regeneration Fund.

The pitch is phase one of the aspirations for sports facilities on Inverness Campus and aims to address a lack of quality facilities for pitch sports in Inverness, particularly in the east of the city.

The plans aim to fulfil a long-term ambition to provide sports facilities on Inverness Campus for students, local sports clubs and the community. The full-size rugby and football pitch would be floodlit and suitable for year-round use, including training, matches and seven-a-side games.

A planning application for the pitch will be submitted to Highland Council shortly.

The award from sportscotland comes as the agency is committed to working together with several partners on potential wider, strategic investment in sports facilities across Highland.

Inverness College UHI has a well-established and growing sport and health-related curriculum and research capacity, which would be enhanced through additional sports facilities on site. The plans would also strengthen Inverness College UHI’s link with the local community, providing more opportunities for collaboration between staff, students, sports clubs and groups.

Scottish Rugby and Inverness Craig Dunain RFC are active partners in the project and have already been identified as potential users of the pitch. Inverness Caledonian Thistle Football Club and the Scottish Football association are also represented on the Steering Group for the overall development.

Mairi Gougeon, Minister for Public Health and Sport, said: “This latest investment from sportscotland’s Sport Facilities Fund will help make a real impact in communities across Scotland. Over the last year we have seen the vital role sport and physical activity has played in supporting our communities to stay connected and be more active.

“I’m pleased to hear that more projects are benefitting from this latest round of funding which will support local projects to ensure more diverse and inclusive opportunities are available in communities whilst increasing access to sport for all. In total, £903,686 will be shared by 11 projects across 10 different local authorities in Scotland from East Lothian to the Shetland Islands. The investment will support clubs and communities in their aim to improve access to sport in their local community and to deliver sustainable projects.”

Professor Chris O’Neil, principal and chief executive of Inverness College UHI, said: “This facility will greatly enhance the student experience on campus as well as enhancing our sport and wellbeing programmes.

"The pitch and the ambitious plans for Phase 2 will make studying in the Highlands more attractive, helping our communities to retain and attract talent. The collaborative nature of the development means that it will not only benefit students across the University of the Highlands and Islands network, but also communities across the North of Scotland, adding to an already vibrant, community campus here in Inverness.

"It is our ambition that the pitch and the wider planned development will encourage active health and wellbeing throughout our communities as well as supporting pathways to develop talent from youth and grassroots on to elite sports.”

Inverness Campus is being developed by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) as a nationally and internationally significant location for business, research and education. HIE has made land available for the sports pitch.

Ruaraidh MacNeil, director of infrastructure at HIE, said: “This is excellent news for all at Inverness Campus. Those who work here, our visitors and the students. Sports development has been part of the campus vision since the start, and I am delighted that the collaborative approach to this project has borne fruit.”

Steve Walsh, chief executive of High Life Highland, said: “High Life Highland is pleased to be enhancing existing partnerships that will see further inward investment to the Highlands, supporting the physical and mental health and wellbeing of those in the communities we serve.”

Malcolm Macleod, chief officer for Infrastructure and Environment at Highland Council, said: “It is excellent to see this final step in the delivery of what will be a great asset to the communities on the east side of the city.”

Stewart Harris, chief executive of sportscotland, said: “It is fantastic to see the ambition and commitment from the people behind these projects who are working together to improve the lives of their local communities.

"We know that sport and physical activity can play a part in Scotland’s recovery from Covid-19. Facilities like these will not only allow more people to participate but can also provide a place for communities to come together and support one another as we work our way out of these challenging times.

"It’s important to recognise that without National Lottery players this level of investment simply would not be possible so we must say a huge thank you to everyone who has bought a National Lottery ticket.”

Councillor Ken Gowans (Inverness South, SNP) welcomed the news and said: “It is fantastic news that this project will now go ahead and will be a very welcome enhancement to the campus and the area.

"It will enable both learning and development opportunities that everyone in our community can benefit from, this is a much needed amenity. The funding package has been delivered as a result of a truly collaborative effort and I look forward to the next phase of the campus development and future enhancements.”

The pitch represents phase one of the project, with ambitious plans for a second phase being developed. This would potentially see a centre for sporting excellence created, providing the facilities, expertise and support required for athletes of all abilities to train and develop in the region, as well as facilities for students and the community.

Existing sports facilities at Inverness College UHI, including its fitness suite and sports hall, were operating at capacity pre-Covid, with students studying sports programmes using the facilities during the day, and student clubs, sporting partners and community groups by evening, including, amongst others, the Institute of Sport, Highland Rugby, North of Scotland Referees, Mark Holmes Football Academy and Inverness City Lions Basketball Club.

The project to develop sports facilities on Inverness Campus is being led by the Inverness Campus Sports Development Steering Group. It was established in 2016 and is chaired by Inverness College UHI, with representatives from Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Highland Council, the University of the Highlands & Islands, sportscotland, the Scottish Football Association, the Highlands and Islands Students’ Association, Inverness Caledonian Thistle Football Club, Scottish Rugby and High Life Highland.


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