MORAY SPORTS GROUPS packed out the Alexander Graham Bell centre in Elgin on Monday evening to discuss plans for a new regional sports centre.
It was standing room only as local MSP Richard Lochhead chaired a meeting organised by local businessman Sandy Adam, with representatives from many groups and individuals enthused by the idea of Moray finally achieving a long-standing sporting ambition.
Mr Adam outlined his vision for a new, purpose-build and state-of-the-art facility for Moray, highlighting five key areas that he and his team believed were key to the delivery of the project.
He revealed that his company, Springfield Properties, had secured land to the south of Elgin, close to the Linkwood Distillery, that is currently designated for housing in the Moray Local Plan and where there is a need for a new primary school which would ensure daytime use for a new sports centre in close proximity.
“This would save on building costs by negating the need for facilities to be built as part of the school,” Mr Adams told the audience. Adding that he had a desire to provide personal financial support to the project, he hoped that others would do the same – and revealed that the Benzies Foundation, created by computer games impresario Leslie Benzies, had already done so.
He said: “Leslie Benzies has pledged his support to the project. His foundation exists to encourage sport and fitness within communities – and there is no better community for him to help than the one he grew up in.
“The most important thing we need, however, is public support in order to convince other backers to support us.”
It was made clear at the meeting that Moray Council was not expected to contribute to the project whose long-term goal was to be self-sufficient without the need for additional subsidy. Mr Adam said that the purpose of the meeting was to gauge interest amongst the public and key local sports groups.
Mr Adam said that to make the project a reality, a manager would need to be appointed who had “the leadership and drive to take the project forward, and who had the technical know-how to ensure that costs were kept to a minimum”.
He added that he and members of the project development team were meeting with groups and individuals to build a business case for the new facility, adding: “In order to ensure that it was as robust as possible they need to prove demand in the area”.
To that end everyone attending was invited to complete a questionnaire which would also be made available online in the near future.
Taking questions it quickly became clear that unanimous support existed for the project, with several attendees expressing the individual needs of their own sports – ranging from squash to parkour, cricket to cheerleading.
A letter was also read out to the meeting from Keith Meisner, who had been coached alongside tennis star Andy Murray. Mr Meisner warned that unless indoor facilities became a feature of the region it could never produce an Andy Murray: “I grew up playing tennis but had to leave Elgin at the age of 14 to pursue a tennis career,” Mr Meisner said.
He added: “I asked Andy’s brother Jamie how much benefit he received from indoor courts and he replied ‘monstrous’ – had Andy Murray grown up in Elgin, chances are he would not have become a Wimbledon champion.”
At the conclusion of the meeting Mr Adam said that he hoped to have a project manager in place as soon as possible, and further public consultation would most likely be through an exhibition as opposed to another full public meeting. It is hoped that the project would finally see a Moray Sports Centre created by 2017.
Richard Lochhead MSP closed the meeting by saying: “The best dreams are the ones that come true – and if we all work really hard this will be one of them.”