St Andrews looks to transform student sport
The University’s Planning and Resources Committee has approved an initial investment of over £300,000 to produced detailed designs for a scheme that may see up to £14 million committed to a transformation of sport at the University.
The detailed designs will include: a new eight-court sports hall/arena, a larger and better equipped fitness suite, a new four-court indoor tennis centre, larger performance conditioning suite, increased changing provision and a full refurbishment of the St Leonard’s Road Sports Centre and its reception areas.
The scheme – which would offer state of the art sports and training facilities to St Andrews students and staff as well as community users – is subject to final approval by University Court.
The University will attempt to raise £3 million from donors and alumni in addition to the investment of core funds. If approved by Court, the scheme will be addressed in three phases and is expected to take two and half years to complete.
Over half the 7700 student population of St Andrews are members of one or more sports club, with more than 4000 students regularly engaging in physical activity. In addition to its 56 different sports clubs, the University runs the most extensive student sport volunteer programme in Scotland, with involvement in a number of outreach initiatives for local children, national opportunities and an increasing international presence.
Although the University’s current facilities are dated and frequently overcrowded, student sports teams at St Andrews have performed with increasing distinction in recent years.
Recent sports club success include notable performances from the men’s rugby team, who beat Edinburgh in the annual varsity game and won the national Scottish Student Sport league, while fencing continues to perform tremendously well in the premier league. Other top performers with national trophies in their sights include the lacrosse, basketball and volleyball teams.
The St Andrews facilities have also proved popular with professional athletes. Dundee United Football Club have a permanent training base at St Leonard’s Road and the complex has hosted Barcelona, Manchester United, Everton and Scottish football squads for short training camps and pre-season work. Many top class rugby squads have also based themselves at University Park for intensive training sessions and these have included the Scotland team, Gloucester Rugby as well as the world famous Wigan Warriors rugby league side. Talks with a number of well-known professional clubs are currently ongoing regarding camps this coming summer.
Higher quality and additional sports facilities would also be expected to have a very positive impact on the local community. Additional local community members and community clubs could access the new facilities. There would be greater opportunity for local schools, primary, secondary and independent to use facilities during the school day and higher quality fitness training facilities could benefit all local athletes.
Despite the current success of St Andrews student sports teams and the high profile which the Sports Centre enjoys in professional sports circles, research has suggested that the University may have been losing out on recruiting the best student athletes because its present facilities don’t yet match those on offer from competitors.
The University’s Director of Sport and Exercise, Stephen Stewart, and current President of the Athletic Union, Jessica Walker, have worked together to develop a vision for sport in St Andrews in which the facilities match the interest and expectations of students and the local community.
Stephen commented, “The University is seriously committed to improving both sporting services and facilities services offered to students.
“Over the last few years, we’ve undergone a number of improvements to both facilities and infrastructure, such as the appointment of three full time Directors of Sport, as well as an increasing number of Head Coaches, the creation of a student sport focused management team and the restructuring of the Athletic Union, all under the common umbrella of Saints Sport.
“This has been one of our biggest achievements because the relationship we have with them is symbiotic and so crucial to the redevelopment process, because after all, our key users are our students. The realignment has allowed us to concentrate much more closely on being student-focussed and provide for our performance sporting athletes as well as our regular users”.
Jess Walker, who was elected full-time student sabbatical officer responsible for sport last summer, commented, “Sport is such an important part of the student experience and can help young people build skills in team building and confidence, as well as the obvious health benefits.
“We have other developmental opportunities for our students too such as paid internships linked with other University departments, our volleyball outreach programme and the chance to take part in life-changing experiences such as Uk Sport IDEALS, sport coaching in Zambia.
“The growth in student participation has grown tremendously in recent years, with membership of the AU being at its highest ever this year. Several years ago we could barely field a team at football, but now we can field 4 men’s teams and 2 women’s and our tennis club has grown to a staggering 300 members.”
Stephen added, “Six years ago, the University started drawing up plans, in consultation with the Athletic Union, for a phased approach based on student demand. The original Sports Centre was built in 1968 when the student population was fewer than 2,000. Now, we have four times as many students and 56 sports clubs to provide facilities for, but a year ago our clubs could only train on half a pitch at a time.
“We’ve already made a number of things happen in that time as a direct response to feedback from our students. We’re improved and extended our fitness suite facilities twice. We’ve also re-laid our pitches and refurbished the pavilion. I passionately believe we’re doing more than any other Scottish university; we have a phenomenal relationship with our sporting student body and I believe that, through improved facilities and the developmental opportunities we are offering, we are making our students better people too.”
Issued by the Press Office, University of St Andrews
Contact Victoria Herd on 01334 46 2530 / 07850 900 351.