£33m Oriam centre to take athletes ‘to greatness’

Scotland’s new landmark £33 million national performance centre for sport will take athletes from “grassroots to greatness” after drawing inspiration from around the world, according to the project’s chief executive Catriona McAllister.

Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson visits the performance centre, which is under construction at Heriot-Watt but will open next year. Picture: Steve Welsh

Known as Oriam, the centre will become the heart of sport in this country, with Gordon Strachan’s national team, Vern Cotter’s rugby side, as well as Basketball Scotland, Scottish Handball and Scottish Squash and Racketball set to utilise the facilities.

With the doors expected to open in under a year at the Heriot-Watt base, the press were yesterday afforded a glimpse behind the scenes as building work continues.

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Oriam will boast an indoor pitch, matching the dimensions of Hampden Park, with seating for 500 people. It will also have top-level grass and synthetic outdoor pitches and a high-performance strength and conditioning centre.

McAllister said: ”This facility, on a personal and professional level, is so exciting because you are working with athletes at the very top of their game, but also getting to influence every level and age group.

“I’m just as excited seeing a young child have a good experience here as I am about seeing Gordon Strachan and his squad come through the doors. Grassroots to greatness is the way we think about it. It’s a landmark project for Scotland.”

The project has already been given a thumbs-up by Strachan, who visited the site earlier this month with SFA chief executive Stewart Regan.

McAllister added: “Gordon Strachan was delighted with the facility. Not just because of the immediate difference it will make, but with the opportunity to technically develop a player over a longer period of time. It is about developing the best coaches, the best sports scientists and improving every aspect of an athlete’s development.”

Neil Gibson, the director of sport, health and performance at Oriam, aspired to a career in football when he was in the youth academy at Hearts. However, he left Tynecastle in 2010 to work for Heriot-Watt University and has been involved in this project since its inception.

Gibson explained how they drew inspiration from around the world in a bid to give Scottish athletes the chance to shine. He said: “We visited INSEP in Paris, which is a fantastic multi-sports facility, Papendal in Holland and they taught us that everything doesn’t need to be all-singing and dancing. It needs to be functional and give everyone access. We also saw England’s training base at St George’s Park and a number of rugby league and union teams in England.”

While Gibson acknowledges that top-class facilities are no guarantee of a world-class production line of talent, he believes it will give every athlete the opportunity to be the best they can be.

He said: “Rugby and football with be major users of the centre, but so will Sport Scotland and their variety of sports and individuals and squads. They will use this on a day-to-day basis, whether it is the hydrotherapy pool, the rehab area or the strength and conditioning gym.

”People will be able to use this facility as much as they want, it will allow them to be physically ready and practise their game throughout the year with the indoor facilities.

“Most people get to the next level by honing their skills and putting in the hours.

“The Performance Centre won’t make them do it, it won’t give them the motivation if that’s not already inside them, but it will give every athlete the chance to get to the highest level their ability allows.”