The Sports Centre Saga Continues…

Following last week’s opinion article on the gym the ever watchful university decided to fight their corner. We received an e-mail kindly inviting us to conduct an interview with the […]

Following last week’s opinion article on the gym the ever watchful university decided to fight their corner. We received an e-mail kindly inviting us to conduct an interview with the highest ranks of AU officials.

So, off I went to see Stephen Stewart, Director of Sports and Exercise, and Emily Griffiths, AU President. 

The team running the Sports Centre are clearly passionate and genuinely trying to make things better. I was bombarded with a great list of courses the Sports Centre offers, recent achievements and imrpovements, but I have decided to omit many of these simply because I wish to assess what is being done to further advance the quality of our facilities, rather than what we already have. 

Stephen spoke of the success Saints Sport has had over the years, yet unfortunately, in his words, no one seems to know about it. Their main grievance is the constant negativity surrounding the Sports Centre and the lack of appreciation for the good. They are right in that respect: our sports teams do enjoy great sucess but I believe it is down to the Sports Centre to make sure people know of that. University officials speak of  world class excellence and vast plans, so why don’t we hear about it?

The situation, at first glance, seems to be thus: our Sports Centre excels in certain areas, sports and facilities, yet lacks catastrophically in others; they must seek a balance – one area shouldn’t suffer for the other to excel. 3rd year Walter Luse commented, “I have to travel to Dundee to go climbing because in St Andrews I’d have to pay a gym membership and an entry fee to climb an unsafe, s***ty wall. That makes no sense, why would you charge people that much?”

A very important question I was simply dying to ask was, why do we not have a swimming pool? Only last year I went to St Leonard’s school to witness our first class water polo team – seriously, they are good – using what looked like a kiddie pool in an abandoned warehouse. “Don Corleone, give me justice.” I hear you say and I share your pain. The demand for a pool has always been there; 2nd year Econ Student Toby Close said: “There is nothing better than a dip in the pool after a gym session. It’s a great way to unwind, stretch and relax. It would be a universal joy for the university and would be used by everyone, not just the sports teams!” Hear hear, Toby.

Stephen Stewart, Director of Sports and Exercise, however, reassured me. Along with the refurbishment of the Student Union (expected to reach completion in 2014/15) will come a brand new Sports Centre with a swimming pool, for which money is being raised as we speak, a climbing wall, state of the art squash courts, judo mats, five a-side pitch… basically, the whole works! 

Next I came to the key issue of the poor state of the gym and the main sports building in general. It works at over-capacity and is simply not the required standard. Emily and Stephen informed me that there are plans to expand the gym as soon as possible (before September perhaps…) and to create a better facility for students to workout in. Furthermore, the old gym was apparently improved only recently and was even worse than the current one – hard to believe, I know, but look at these photos:

Funding is, of course, the main issue that the team has to deal with, having spent £600,000 on a new pitch for football and rugby, and millions more to improve the Grand Pavilion, the tennis courts and other facilities in general. So the question remains: is this money being channeled in the correct direction?

I appreciate the Sports Centre’s efforts; I have full faith in their team and expect some great improvements. There is no doubt that they are as anxious to sort out all our problems but for the time being the fact remains that the facilities are in parts below standard. Yes, we now have a brand new state of the art pitch for rugby and football, but I still have to wait for thirty minutes, in what looks like an A&E waiting room, to use our gym.

I greatly appreciate the high calibre of coaches that the university employs and how passionately they develop our successful teams – during the interview I even happened to be introduced to David Ross, Director of Rugby, who is a fully qualified IRB coach. Neverthless, please, I beseech you, begin those refurbishment works. The AU elections are coming up, with a new system this year. The competition will be tough, with plenty of candidates dying for the job, which will provide greater incentive and will demand more of the AU team. I hope they will further inspire and encourage our university to improve our sporting facilities.