First Minister Nicola Sturgeon joined Paralympians, Commonwealth Games athletes and local schools to celebrate the official opening of sportscotland’s Inverclyde National Sports Training Centre in Largs.
Following a £12million redevelopment, funded by sportscotland and the Scottish Government, Inverclyde is now a world-class residential sports training centre designed with inclusivity at its heart, making it the first of its kind in the UK.
The development means that Inverclyde now caters for a wide range of indoor and outdoor sports and activities ranging from gymnastics to tennis, and hockey to pilates, and is available to everyone from school children to high performance athletes.
The First Minister was greeted with a rousing musical performance from Centre Stages’ Aspire group as she arrived to open the state-of-the-art facility.
As she unveiled a commemorative plaque with the help of Grace Warnock, whose accessible toilet signs are on display at Inverclyde, Ms Sturgeon said: “This facility is stunning. The building is stunning to look at, what is inside is amazing and it's in a beautiful setting.
"The bedrooms are fully inclusive residential spaces for athletes to use and they have - I say this as an Ayrshire person - probably the best view in the whole country.
"It is no exaggeration to say that this facility, and particularly the completely inclusive nature of the facility, makes it unique - perhaps not just in Scotland but anywhere in the world.
"That's a fantastic accolade and one that everybody involved can be proud of."
sportscotland undertook consultation with clubs, schools and governing bodies of sport, including working closely with Scottish Disability Sport, when devising the plans for the centre.
Existing residential sports centres across the UK and Europe were studied to identify best practice and create a unique proposition that would cater for the wide range of guests who use the centre, making sport more accessible.
Stewart Harris, chief executive of sportscotland, said: “Sports facilities are the best they have ever been in Scotland with a network of quality facilities the length and breadth of the country, including the recently opened National Curling Academy in Stirling, Aberdeen Sports Village, the national performance centre (Oriam) in Edinburgh, the Emirates Arena in Glasgow, and the Olympia swimming centre in Dundee.
“Inverclyde is an important addition to that sporting estate, making sport more accessible and giving everyone from the local community to our aspiring Paralympic athletes a bespoke training facility to enable them to reach their goals, at every level.
"Inverclyde is absolutely open to everyone and we look forward to welcoming back our long-standing friends and guests, and a whole new generation of centre users to experience the unique environment that we have created here in Largs.”
In pictures: #InverclydeOpen
Inverclyde has a long history in delivering, not only for sport in Scotland, but internationally, as many of the world’s top football managers, including Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho, earned their coaching credentials during training courses at the centre.
The new development builds on that reputation, offering a wealth of opportunities in residential sports. It will deliver school and community programmes, host courses and events, and provide a home for high performance camps, with the specific needs of disability athletes catered for in both the sports facilities and accommodation.
Boccia Paralympian Jamie McCowan said: "The venue overall is fantastic, we have had a couple of training camps here already with the squad, there wasn't one negative about coming here. The rooms are fantastic, the fact that all of them are accessible is amazing.
"Certainly going abroad, and even to some venues in Britain, they don't all have that available so to have that here is fantastic. I hope it sets a benchmark for other facilities that see this and think 'we could actually do this'."
Jamie's brother and fellow Boccia player Scott added: “It’s fantastic to have a facility like Inverclyde on our doorstep and it will make a huge difference to our preparations. The attention to detail means we can focus fully on our training and not worry about the practicalities.
“Normally when we are away from home training or competing, we have to adapt or ‘make do’ with the accommodation and training equipment available.
"Here at Inverclyde all of our needs have been taken care of.
"Simple things like getting into bed or using the bathroom, which are normally a real challenge for us, have been made so much easier with the hoists in the bedrooms. It really is life-changing for us.”
Experts from the sportscotland institute of sport were involved in the development of the new gym, which caters for community users but also has a dedicated section for performance athletes.
The gym provides Olympic-standard weight platforms, free weights, cardio machines and an indoor sprint track, as well as specially adapted equipment for wheelchair users.
Janice Eaglesham, Chair of Scottish Disability Sport, added: “It is terrific to have an inclusive facility like this in Scotland and it was invaluable to us that we were involved in the project right from the start.
"It is now one of the best inclusive training and competition venues in the UK and I am sure it will attract athletes, not just from Scotland, but from across the British Isles and overseas.
“This is a fantastic example of what can be achieved by working in partnership and we are delighted to have played our part in creating this unique centre.”
The meticulous planning of the project extends to the food on offer with nutritionists from the sportscotland institute of sport working as advisors to the catering suppliers, Elior, to ensure that the food on offer is nutritionally balanced and meets the needs of athletes training and competing.
The centre was designed by award-winning architecture firm, Reiach and Hall, whose previous projects include Oriam, the national performance centre for sport, and Aberdeen Sports Village, both part-funded by sportscotland.
Morrison Construction delivered the project, and is also building the new Largs Joint Campus next to Inverclyde, and a partnership with sportscotland and North Ayrshire Council will provide additional capacity for events as well as access to the Inverclyde estate for local schoolchildren.
Already feedback from industry experts, athletes, coaches and the care sector has been overwhelmingly positive and Inverclyde has re-established its place as a significant centre for sport in Scotland.
Find out more
Take a look around Inverclyde with our gallery.
For bookings and to find out more about the sportscotland National Sports Training Centre Inverclyde here.