“Young people are going to be so inspired. Hopefully we’ll see them on the telly winning gold medals.”
That’s the view of the project manager of Dundee’s new Regional Performance Centre for Sport.
The Tele was given an exclusive first look inside the £32 million complex in Caird Park – and Dundonians are being told to expect something special.
Balfour Beatty started work on the project in May last year, with a view to completion by this September.
The complex features two 3G pitches for rugby and football. There will also be a separate indoor sports hall with spectator seating for sports including badminton, volleyball and basketball.
The plans include a £250,000 upgrade of the existing athletics track, while £150,000 is being spent on the velodrome.
Ross McGuire, project manager for the centre on behalf of Leisure and Culture Dundee, said: “So far we’ve been very lucky in that every partner we’ve spoken to, from Sport Scotland to national governing bodies and universities, have all said they want local people to be mixing with their athletes.
“When you look at Sport Scotland’s national regional plan, there was a big hole in the Tayside region in not having something which brought everything to one place at one time.
“We just got a bit tired of seeing our coach education courses go to other parts of the country.
“I think it limits how many people can access and participate in sport.
“Now we’ve got this it’s about making the best use of it for the next generation of athletes and coaching staff.
“We’ve got some of the most talented people in the country in Dundee but that doesn’t mean we can’t push for more and we’re missing out by not having local education here.”
About 15-20 new jobs will be created with Leisure and Culture Dundee as a result of the opening of the centre.
Graham Finnie, lead manager of the facilities team at Sport Scotland, said: “One of our main aims is to develop a world-class sporting system in Scotland and that’s been going on for a number of years now.
“The Regional Performance Centre in Dundee is a piece of that jigsaw.
“There’s already a huge number of high quality athletes coming out of Dundee and we hope to get another like Laura Muir. That’s the aspiration of the facility.”
Plans for the centre had to be resubmitted after Dundee FC withdrew its interest in using the facility for training in 2016 – but Mr Finnie claimed there is still a possibility of linking up with senior football clubs.
He added: “Dundee FC may want to change the current arrangements for its academy and senior teams.
“The challenging periods will be when the professional clubs can come in because you’d hope they would be able to bring their squads in during off-peak times.”
Construction of the centre hasn’t been without criticism after the project’s budget rocketed by £12.5m in October 2017.
The increase was due to the inclusion of a £5m energy centre with district heating capability and more energy-efficient structures.
The council’s finance spokesman Willie Sawers said: “We’re confident that we’ll bring it in within budget.”
John Chambers, director of operations at Balfour Beatty, said: “We’ve taken on 16 apprentices through the contract, five of whom have come through the council scheme for people who are unemployed.
“We’ve been able to offer a lot of employment to a lot of local people.”
Sport centre timeline
2003: Sport Scotland first identified the need for a regional centre in Tayside.
August 2016: Dundee City Council asked to approve a £150,000 improvement programme for Caird Park.
October 2016: Members of the Caird Park Golf Club vote overwhelmingly to oppose plans to build the centre in the park.
November 2016: The vote on whether to build the Regional Performance Centre was withdrawn from the development management committee agenda after an objector requested a pre-determination hearing.
December 2016: Dundee FC abandoned plans to use the centre as a permanent training base, causing the council to submit an amended planning application for the centre to be built on the eastern end of Caird Park.
February 2017: Redesigned plans submitted to feature three sport pitches – two artificial and one grass – as opposed to the original plans which would have seen eight sport pitches built.
August 2017: Plans for the multi-million pound sports performance centre approved by council.
October 2017: The cost of building the centre increases by more than £12.5m after an original budget of £20m.
February 2018: Tax agreement reached meaning the centre will be exempt from £750,000 annual tax bill due to “exceptional circumstances.”
May 2018: Construction of the centre begins at a cost of £32,125,00.