HIGHLAND ARENA CAMPAIGN GETS UNDERWAY
The Highland Arena is an exciting and innovative project that will transform lives right across the North of Scotland. It combines ‘state of the art’ regional sports and wellness facilities with a large-scale community entertainment and events space. As a bold addition to the established leisure complex at the Bught, Inverness, it will include –
ATHLETICS : Indoor sprint track, jumps/throws, warm up facilities
CYCLING : 250m UCI standard velodrome
GYMNASTICS : Pitted gym suitable for all Olympic disciplines
JUDO : Dojo with 2.5 mat areas
TENNIS : Four indoor tennis courts
WELLBEING : Strength & conditioning suite, studios, sports science support
ARENA : Showcase Conference/Events venue catering for over 3000 persons
Conceived by the Highland Council, the new Arena could be ready and open for community use by 2020. The projected cost of £23m. can be substantially offset by extensive grants from sportscotland, public agencies, ERDF and charities, plus donations from business, philanthropic and community sources.
The new Arena facilities promise other substantial economic and regional development benefits from their unique ‘perched’ design. Many concerts, shows, exhibitions and conferences currently bypass the Highlands for want of a suitably large performance space. A flexible cultural venue with capacity for up to 3-5000 people would attract significant new business to the region.
Highland Council will shortly be completing a major review of their five-year Capital Programme. Difficult decisions will be taken at the budget meeting on the 15 February 2018. The wider financial outlook is seriously constrained. However, the Highlands still require continuing investment to meet the wide-ranging needs of the whole community. That demands a balance of schemes – schools, roads, affordable housing, social care and leisure projects - when and where suitable opportunities arise. There are also sound economic reasons why such capital investment for the future needs to be increased during times of austerity.
Speaking recently, John MacMillan, chair of local cycling charity HiVelo, outlined the benefits that the new facilities would bring to that particular sport,
“The proposed Arena is crucial to our ambitions to grow every branch of cycling here in the North of Scotland for the benefit of future generations.
The velodrome and associated facilities will provide a safe all-weather training and fitness venue for enjoyment by users of every type and persuasion. It will fundamentally improve our sport by dispensing with the requirement for Highlanders to make long and expensive journeys south to ride on tracks which are already over-subscribed. It will open up new experiences and opportunities for our young people in particular.
The Highlands are especially deficient in regional performance sports facilities compared to the rest of Scotland, and the new Arena will fix that glaring ‘black hole’ – it’s a real gamechanger.”
The window of opportunity for the Highland Arena is unfortunately closing rapidly. A longstanding offer of £7m. grant from national agency sportscotland will expire if the project is not included in the Council’s programme. Potential European finance must also be spent by 2020, and other donors will need confirmation to maintain momentum. The corresponding local authority investment could be spread over three financial years. HiVelo is therefore urging its supporters and indeed, all those who enjoy any sports & leisure activities, to register their support with local Councillors before the meeting in February. The Trust has produced a helpful ‘toolkit’ to allow representations to be emailed to local elected Members.