The most ambitious project undertaken by the ICT Community Development Team is the proposed creation of a community sporting hub at Inverness Royal Academy Playing Fields.
We have been granted a 25-year lease of the 10-acre grassed site near Rollerbowl and Inverness Gaelic Primary and in the first phase of redevelopment we have attracted funding of £183,000 to carry out major drainage and groundworks to remove flooding which has significantly reduced its use in recent years.
Recently, we lodged a planning application with The Highland Council seeking permission to proceed with phase two of the project. Estimated to cost a further £750,000, the second phase would see toilets upgraded and new office and changing rooms provided. It is intended that my Community Development Team, who will manage the facility, will be based on-site moving from our current base at Caledonian Stadium.
At the hub, our Team will expect to welcome 1,200 participants per month to attend activities and host monthly football festivals for more than 500 primary school aged players. It will also host the Highland "para" football team, now under the umbrella of ICT Trust; and adult programmes, including walking football for over 55s and Football Fans in Training.
The facility will also feature a seasonal grass athletics running track, long jump, shot putt and javelin area for use by Inverness Royal Academy pupils.
From the base, the team will support the ICT Football Memories Project and the Kick Off Your Career initiative. Breakfast and after-school clubs will support working parents at targeted schools.
There is also a commitment to support ICT FC Women and Girls section, who have 170 registered girls and women to play on a grass pitch.
Two additional staff will be employed to support the upkeep of the facility and work experience/vocational training in football coaching and grounds maintenance will be provided.
The project recognises the chronic lack of facilities in the city, with limited grass pitches available for use. Delivery will enable us to provide a wide range of benefits in one place and make a lasting difference in the community we serve, using football as the catalyst to inspire participation in activities both football and non-football related.
The site is big enough to house 4 full-size pitches opening up opportunities for a wide section of the community to access grass football and athletics areas.
We have established a strong partnership with the Scottish Football Association through delivery of local community projects, such as the primary school soccer festivals on a Saturday, provided in partnership with McDonalds and the Extra Time Initiative to provide breakfast and after-school clubs in three targeted schools in Inverness, namely Bishop Eden’s Primary, Dalneigh Primary and Merkinch Primary.
The SFA have supported the first phase of the project with funding of £157,000 and we are hopeful they will also support our second phase. Sport Scotland have also committed £100,000 to the second phase.
We are busy identifying other sources of funding to ensure we can realise our goal of providing our city with a first class community asset.
Craig Masterton, Community Development Manager, ICT Community Trust