May 24, 2008

Where is Scotland's National Curling Academy going to be?

Remember the Centre of Excellence/National Curling Academy - a rink where Scotland's top curlers have a base to train and practise? For a (long) while it was hoped that Stirling would be the venue, but that fell through in November last year, see here.

Late last year the Royal Club was asking for expressions of interest from individuals or groups, with a deadline of December 31. Information packages were distributed. Specifications were issued.

What is the Royal Club is looking for?

This is from the specifications: 'It is important to realise that the NCA is not an ice rink for the exclusive use of Scotland’s elite curlers. It is a rink that is built with their needs and requirements in mind. The NCA will also need to be a rink that serves the needs and requirements of local club curlers and provide them with a facility that they can use and be proud of. What the NCA will provide is an identified centre at which Scotland’s top curlers can work with their coaches in favourable conditions at suitable times to help them continue to achieve the medal results that they have achieved over the past few years. Squads working at the NCA would include those from the Scottish Institute, the local Area Institute, National Academy and the local Regional Academy. It would also provide a base for the British Olympic and Paralympic programmes when they are running.'

A closing date was set of the end of March for those serious in taking a bid forward. So what's happened since then?

Well, four applications are currently being looked at. The idea is to find a preferred venue that the Royal Club can support in its dealings with sportscotland to get the funding that is available for the National Curling Academy project.

Two of the four possible venues have been talked about for a while. A six sheet rink at Ratho, a replacement for the much missed Gogar Park, has received planning permission and was described on Curling Today in August 2007, see here. The history and development of the project can be found on the Gogar website here.

The Fife Curling Trust wants to build a new rink at Cupar .... or perhaps at Glenrothes, and fundraising activities are underway. In a news item in April those behind the project say, "The facility is a 6 sheet rink housed in a building that uses innovative design and technology. At either site, the rink would be situated as part of a larger sports campus and ancillary sports resources." The website with more details is here.

The third bid is from Midlothian Council, and I have not been able to obtain any information of this.

The fourth, revealed here for the first time, is from the Montgomery Hotel Group, the parent of the existing four sheet rink at the Green Hotel in Kinross. The new five sheet rink will implement the ideas laid out for the Circle Project, see here. The ethic of the Scottish Curling Ice Group is to provide 'excellent curling ice'.

In terms of location, accommodation, and a successful record of curling at Kinross, this last proposal is an exciting one.

The Montgomery Hotel Group bid may have another advantage. The specifications for the NCA raised the possibility of the venues providing office accommodation for the Royal Club as a replacement for Cairnie House, and accommodation for a permanent curling museum. Additional funding would be available for this. The Kinross submission has both as an integral part of its plans, although both Gogar and Fife have indicated that space could be provided for these too.

Currently Royal Club Board members Anne Malcolm, Jeanette Johnston, Lockhart Steele, and Mike Ferguson are looking at the submissions from each of the potential venues, including their business plans. Site visits are about to take place.

What's the timescale for an announcement? "Sometime over the summer," according to CEO Colin Grahamslaw. We have to be patient for a bit longer to find out where the National Curling Academy is going to be!

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