Scotland’s new Performance Centre gives the country’s sporting elite (and aspiring elite) the chance to maximise their potential
There may not be any conclusive evidence so far when it comes to the round ball game, but it would not be too much of a stretch to attribute some of the improvement in Scotland’s oval ball performances to the wonderful new Oriam National Performance Centre, based on the Heriot-Watt University campus in Edinburgh, and opened late last summer.
There had long been a frustration among Scottish sports’ supporters that the nation which had produced the likes of Jim Baxter, Denis Law, Kenny Dalglish, Gordon Brown, Andy Irvine and Gavin Hastings was punching well below its weight when it came its national teams. Lack of high quality facilities were identified as one of the hurdles preventing genuine progress and, with envious eyes cast south of the border to the magnificent FA St George’s Park, plans were drawn up which matched the needs, within proportionate revenue restrictions, for Scottish sport.
While the £120 million St George’s Park was very much a FA complex, with opportunities for other sports, including rugby, to utilise the facilities, the new Scottish Performance Centre was always destined to be much more universal, with a number of sports having equal status, while it was also to give members of the public the opportunity to share the same facilities as that the country’s sporting heroes.
With a budget of £33 million made up largely from the Scottish Government, with valuable contributions from sportscotland, Heriot-Watt University and City of Edinburgh City Council there was a sufficient pot of money available to ensure that a facility worthy of the sport’s mad Scottish nation would be built.
Once contracts and contractor had been agreed construction work got under way in March 2015 and was finally opened in August of last year.
And what has been achieved silences those many armchair critics – Scotland has more than its fair share – who were deriding the concept as a “White Elephant” even minutes after the ink on the blueprints had had time to dry.
With the country’s dodgy weather often used to explain why silky skills are not as easily achieved in Scotland as they are in sunny Rio de Janeiro or on the hard running pitches of Australia and South Africa the key facility is the massive indoor pitch – the biggest in all of Europe.
The 116 metre by 76 metre dimensions are the same as those at Hampden Park while the 28 metre high roof, 15 metres at its lowest, can accommodate a Stuart Hogg up and under without risking a visit from the glaziers.
Either side of the pitch there is the strength and conditioning, medical and rehab centres and hydrotherapy pool on one side and the public and student facilities on the other.
Outside there is a full sized artificial pitch and seven grass football and rugby pitches.
The team did visit St George’s Park, in Burton, Staffordshire, as well as other English Premier League clubs, to see what has been achieved but there is great pride taken from the fact that there are elements within Oriam which are superior to other facilties. Not least the indoor pitch which, in addition to being large, has been built in such a fashion that natural light is in abundance.
The new pitch came from GreenFields, who already had history with Heriot-Watt having installed two pitches on the campus, and installed by Allsports Contruction and Maintenance.
“We were delighted that Oriam selected our GreenFields woven premium product for all three of their sports pitches. GreenFields MX TriMension is a high quality 3G woven product offering exceptional playing performance and has been selected and endorsed by many top clubs around the world including Arsenal, Celtic, Charlton, PSV and Vitesse,” said Paul Milton, Commercial Director for GreenFields.
“Our triple W-weave technology results in an extremely high tuft bind making the fibres stand much straighter resulting in a highly resilient pitch. We find many more organisations are opting for our woven technology as they find the play it enables is much more natural and the pitch looks aesthetically pleasing throughout the year with long lasting upright fibres,” explained Paul.
“GreenFields offers a full design and installation service in both England and Wales, however, in Scotland we work with our strategic partner, Allsportscm, widely known as accomplished pitch constructors, who have worked on a number of high profile projects with us.”
The various pitches were installed over a period of time, to fit around other work which was being carried out at the time.
“The pitches were installed at different times, the small indoor pitch took three weeks, the outdoor pitch took eight weeks, as that was extended, while the indoor main pitch took four weeks after the area was handed over by the main contractor,” explained Gordon Thompson, Allsports Managing Director.
“We were delighted to be associated with this project to add to our reputation of delivering high end football installations for professional teams in Scotland. Other projects we’ve worked on include Celtic’s Training Ground, Alloa and Falkirk football clubs, as well as Petershill for Glasgow Life and Kelty Hearts all of which were GreenFields MX fields.
“MX has been a well-received product and a number of clubs and facilities have shown interest in installing the product going forward. It has a reputation of being a top surface to play on and with Allsportscm relationship with GreenFields we will continue to deliver high end facilities for sport.”
The customer, Oriam, was more than satisfied with the playing surfaces produced by GreenFields and Allsportscm.
“We are absolutely delighted with the quality of the surface delivered by GreenFields. The feedback we have had from performance groups, such as Scottish Rugby and the Scottish FA, echoes our sentiments,” Ross Campbell, Director at Oriam.
“The feedback on the synthetic pitches has been excellent since opening. Feedback from all levels of play from recreational to performance has been that it is the best synthetic pitches that they have played on in the country.
We have a full range of users from the Senior National Rugby team to our local Currie FC youth groups. The range of customers has been a real benefit to the centre.
The additions of the indoor slick system and green crumb have been an excellent addition to the facility.
“We have been very pleased to work with Allsports through the installation and on-going maintenance of the facility. The service has been very professional.”
The sight of Scotland’s rugby stars training at Oriam became extremely familiar during the Six Nations and the opportunity to rehearse moves and perfect handling in perfect conditions cannot do anything but be beneficial in the long run.
It must be hoped by the Tartan Army that similar opportunities are grasped with both hands by the football team too!