Cricket Scotland bid for new facility
Cricket Scotland have unveiled plans to build a new administrative and training base at a symbolic site overlooked by Stirling Castle and the Wallace Monument which they hope will bolster the bid to bring the new National Performance Centre for Sport to the most accessible location in the centre of the country.
Bids for that primarily football-driven project, in which some £25m is to be invested, are to be lodged next month and Stirling's proposal, which will be based around its sports village and its university, is up against rivals from Dundee and the Heriot-Watt campus in Edinburgh.
Cricket Scotland's new headquarters, which are expected to cost between £2.5m and £3m and are likely to be supported by the International Cricket Council's Facilities Development Fund but will also require significant other funding, will be based at the New Williamfield home of Stirling County Cricket Club.
Negotiations with the club have not yet been completed but are described as having gone well so far. Explaining the timing of their move from their current offices in Edinburgh, Roddy Smith, Cricket Scotland's chief executive, said they intend to make the move regardless of whether the National Performance Centre bid is successful but noted that there would be huge ancillary benefits if so.
"What we are looking forward to is having our professional cricketers based at a centre that is geared towards ensuring they have top-grade facilities for training and support all within a tight radius," he said. "Cricket Scotland is working on this with Stirling Council and Stirling County Cricket Club independently and we are committed to this facility, but being part of the National Performance Centre also has the potential to enable us to access third-party funding.
"Either way, it is ideal because it is somewhere we can use as a national training base and also play games. At the moment, we have to beg, steal or borrow when it comes to staging matches while our home-based professional cricketers are training in sub-standard club facilities. This can change that."
The move would result in New Williamfield being upgraded to become the fifth Scottish ground to comply with the standards required to host One-Day International matches. The others are The Grange in Edinburgh, which hosted last week's game against Australia A; Aberdeen's Mannofield, where One-Day International, Twenty20 and a four-day Intercontinental Cup match against Kenya will take place next month; Glasgow's Titwood; and New Cambusdoon in Ayr.
Getting the New Williamfield pitch up to standard will involve upgrading both the grass and the artificial net facilities, and enhancing the playing surfaces, while a separate pavilion from the current clubhouse would be built with offices nearby.
As well as the setting, one of the attractions of New Williamfield is its location having been built in an area dedicated to sports development, with scope for growth around the ground. That fits in with the local authority's vision as John Hendry, the councillor who is leading the city's bid for the National Perfor-mance Centre for Sport, made clear in expressing his pleasure at the prospect of Cricket Scotland making this move.
"Cricket Scotland's proposals are welcome and endorse our commitment to sport as a driver of economic growth and social and health improvement," he said. "We are excited at the prospect of Stirling playing such an important role in Scottish cricket."
Hendry believes the decision by a governing body to move from the capital to Stirling reinforces a bid that effectively revolves around a continental-style sports village and this country's most sports-oriented university. "Stirling is fast being recognised as Scotland's city of sport and this announcement by Cricket Scotland strengthens our case for locating the National Performance Centre for Sport in the city," he said.
"We are ideally located, with excellent road and rail links. The facilities within the Stirling Sports Campus, centred on Forthbank and the University of Stirling, support the improvement of sports performance, but also provide a variety of pathways to encourage young people to be active in a variety of sports, while the sports performance and sports medicine facilities and expertise at the University of Stirling are another key part of the attraction of Stirling as a hub of sport."
Reinforcing that message, Cricket Scotland chief executive Smith noted that five Scottish cricketers are currently on the MCC Universities programme in England but that Cricket Scotland could look at setting up similar schemes with Stirling University which already runs sports scholarships for football, golf, swimming, tennis and triathlon.
It could apply equally to other sports and it is understood that The Royal Caledonian Curling Club is also considering relocating to Stirling.