Anonymous businessman kick starts new clubhouse plans for shinty club with £100k donation

An impression of how the new clubhouse will look
An impression of how the new clubhouse will look

An anonymous donation of £100,000 has kick-started a north shinty club’s ambitious plans to redevelop its crumbling facilities.

Lovat Shinty Club unveiled the proposals to replace the aging pavilion at Balgate Park yesterday – and said work would begin in March.

But team bosses have also now launched an appeal for help to plug a funding gap for the project, which is expected to cost a total of £440,000.

The Kiltarlity-based club has enjoyed recent success on the pitch, including ending a 63-year wait by winning the sport’s most prestigious trophy, the Camanachd Cup, in 2015.

But its current pavilion is in extremely poor condition and can not cope with the club’s expanding sporting and social offering.

The generous £100,000 donation was made by a north businessman – who has asked to remain anonymous.

Club president John MacRitchie said he hoped improving the facilities would help attract some of the game’s cup competitions such as the Balliemore Cup, Sutherland Cup and the women’s Camanachd Cup to Kiltarlity.

The new pavilion would also be used as a community facility, with NHS Highland having already expressed an interest.

Mr MacRitchie said: “Thanks to the generosity of this anonymous donor, we’ve decided to begin construction at Balgate Park in March.

“But we need to raise the remainder between now and next summer.

“We’ve successfully sought grants from various charitable trusts while SportScotland have been impressed by our plans and a decision on financial support is expected by Christmas.

“Now we’re launching a big push to raise more than £100,000 to finish the fundraising and ensure that, once started, the project can be completed in November 2017.”

Mr MacRitchie, who managed Lovat’s history-making run to the 2015 Camanachd Cup, added: “It’s a huge project for a small village and surrounding area and we’re delighted to reach this stage.

“The new pavilion will be a hub for other sports and community events and meetings and is much needed in Kiltarlity.

“For instance, NHS Highland is keen to use the new treatment room for holding surgeries.”

The club is now in the process of writing to businesses in the area seeking assistance and has also launched an online fundraising effort.

Club coaching and fundraising vice-chairman Martin Bell said: “We’ve successfully introduced a women’s team which is already doing well and we’ve recruited 60 new under-14 members in the past 12 months.

“But our present premises are dilapidated and totally unsuitable for women and children.

“The facilities can’t cope with our expanding sports and social agenda.

“The new pavilion will have male and female changing rooms, which is a big step forward.

“It’s a huge commitment to bridge the shortfall by raising the final £100,000 but we know that local groups have folded because they don’t have somewhere to meet and they would love to use our new pavilion.

“It would be a major development for the village – and, in addition, the calibre of these new facilities would enable us to apply to bring major shinty finals to Kiltarlity for the first time.”

Balgate Park, which sits on the outskirts of the tiny Inverness-shire village, was previously part of Lovat Estates.

The land on which the club built its present pavilion was donated in 1982.

Lovat raised funds to acquire the entire park in 1990.

Local councillor Margaret Davidson, leader of Highland Council, said: “On this excellent project, Lovat are showing drive, flair and imagination in their efforts – much as they do on the pitch.

“The club is being exceptionally thoughtful in looking at ways the facilities could be used when they have no fixture. For instance, NHS Highland could use it as the venue for flu vaccine sessions or for visiting health professionals.

“I strongly encourage people and businesses to support this appeal and bring about a great community facility.”