University opens Maiden Castle development

by Tim Perry

Durham University has opened a new sports development that will be used by Olympic athletes, students and the general public.

Hugh Robertson MP, the Sports and Minister, officially opened the new installation last Tuesday alongside Christopher Higgins, the University Vice-Chancellor and Charles Johnston from Sport England.

The 6.7 million pound development sees the opening of a new rowing tank near the main reception, the only one of its kind in the North of England and one of only three nationwide. A new fencing hall was also opened, the country’s only world-class one specific to the sport.

Other developments have seen an extended sports hall with a variety of practice surfaces and bowling machines for cricket training. Rowing machines, exercise bikes and a performance analysis suite are also new additions as well as three special physiotherapy rooms and a multi-purpose dance studio.

Speaking about the development, however, University Vice-Chancellor Chris Higgins emphasised the importance the new installations played for everyone: “Sport is part of the education we like to offer. It is for a general role to gain employability – developing skills such as leadership, teamwork and creativity.

“We are immensely proud to be able to contribute to the sporting legacy of the 2012 Olympics  through the opening of these new facilities.”

He told Palatinate: “It’s a fantastic facility, whether for elite sportspeople or for anyone wanting to prove the best of their abilities”.

Hugh Robertson praised Durham on the development: “A huge well done to you – it is fantastic to see a great facility. Here [in the North] you can somehow feel a long way away from the Olympics. This facility proves you emphatically shouldn’t.”

“It is fantastic to see this part of the world so central. Facilities such as these are so important and it is fantastic to see this kind of thing being delivered”.

Charles Johnston, Director of Property at Sport England, which invested half a million pounds in the project, similarly praised Durham for getting the facility running: “This is the result of a huge amount of effort – Congratulations to all on a world-class facility”.

“With funding from the Iconic Facilities fund, this state-of-the-art facility is helping us bring the inspiration and magic of a home into communities in the North and deliver a lasting legacy beyond London 2012”.

The only glitch in the event was the collapse of the bar as Mr Robertson pulled aside the curtain to unveil the plaque – with the bar holding the curtain giving way.

Mr Robertson, after seeing a demonstration of the rowing tank by university rowers, told the press: “Durham University has a strong sporting tradition and this new state-of-the-art centre will help confirm this in the years ahead.

“This fantastic facility will provide world-class sports facilities for elite athletes and community users alike and help more people to take up sport.

“To have a facility like this, here on the doorstep in Durham is fantastic for everyone in the local sports community”.

Will Fletcher, a member of the Durham University Boat Club, said in a video for the media: “It’s great having this equipment that we can use. When the weather’s really bad, which it is quite a lot here, we’re able to row which we haven’t been able to do in the past.

Meanwhile University Cricket Coach Graham Fowler underlined the importance of the facility for his sport: “This has improved everything for us. We now have four nets instead of two. All in all it makes life a little easier to do what we want to do”.

“We’ve always said the centre of excellence is about the people, but you do need the facilities for the people to operate within. This has been a vast improvement for us.

Kira Roberts, a student fencer, said of the new fencing hall: “It’s the best in the country by far and it’s one of the top worldwide training venues so it’s fantastic”.

Read more about Palatinate’s coverage of the opening here.

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