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Whatever happened to the proposed £23 million Highland Arena next to Bught Park?

A £23 million sports facility for the west of Inverness was proposed in 2018, but what happened to it?
A £23 million sports facility for the west of Inverness was proposed in 2018, but what happened to it?

As new sports facilities for Inverness are again on the agenda, the debate about what type of services are required across Highland has been reignited.

Some are calling for areas with smaller populations to be delivered better facilities, with others believing a high-class facility, or a cluster of facilities, in the Highland capital would better serve residents.

But, we have been here before. Other facilities have been proposed and then fell away for differing reasons.

So just what happened to the £23 million velodrome proposed for Inverness west?

An artists impression of what the proposed facility would have looked like.

Education and roads took priority

At the time, budgetary constraints put an end to the proposal to create the Highland Arena, close to Bught Park.

The facility, incorporating a velodrome, was initially proposed by Highland Council and had even progressed to secure funding from sportscotland.

The project was ultimately scrapped as constraints with the local authority’s budget led to money being spent on necessities, like education and roads.

HiVelo turns attention elsewhere

HiVelo was heavily involved in the plans for the Highland Arena and was left disappointed that the project fell away.

Now, the group is exploring other options for the creation of a high-class velodrome to serve the people of the Highlands.

Similar to councillors, the group have turned their attention to the east side of the city.

HiVelo’s Mike Greaves said efforts were made to reignite the idea, with promising talks taking place with Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) for inclusion at Inverness Campus.

He said the onset of Covid effectively “killed off what little momentum by then existed”.

Since then, a full review has been undertaken with the group moving towards creating a cycling-led project called HIVELOHUB.

The new plans include a low-cost indoor velodrome, closed road circuit and short BMX competition track with full support and coaching facilities.

The proposed site lies adjacent to Inverness Campus and the city’s retail park and has already been zoned for development.

Final design being drawn up

Mr Greaves said: “We are very busy working up the final design and business plan with our consultants.

“Discussions are also continuing with a range of potential sponsors.

“More details will be made public early in the New Year.

HIVELOHUB is a regional scale project, but will also be an important ingredient in helping to meet the growing leisure needs of the east Inverness community and wider city.”

West side is ‘very fortunate’

Inverness west councillor Alex Graham has said, despite the original facility being proposed in his ward, he is content with facilities being created on the other side of the city.

Mr Graham said: “I am quite comfortable with most new facilities being located on the east side of the city rather than the west.

“We are very fortunate on the west side because we have got the likes of the Bught Park, the leisure centre, the ice centre, the Northern Meeting Park, Highland rugby and the Kings Club, formerly Torvean golf course.

“Now with huge growth on the east side and east of the A9 in particular, the centre of gravity is moving.

“I am not looking for any large scale facilities on the west side and I would be quite happy to support any new facilities going in on the other side.

“I think with new sporting facilities, we need to serve local communities in the first instance.

“If you could have something that acted as a core facility you could build other things around it and incorporate climbing walls and archery and whatnot.

“I definitely think that is the way to go. To build something that becomes the core of other small facilities around it.”

Councillor Alex Graham.

Budget issues could creep in again

Mr Graham has said any funding for such facilities would have to come externally as Highland Council is “stretched beyond its limits”.

He added: “Funding is the crunch with this kind of facility.

“If that kind of facility was to come along, it would need a huge amount of external funding to make it a possibility.

“However, I could see this as being a real asset and being the focal point in the east side.”

A site is currently being explored for the arena next to the proposed prison.

A Highland Council spokeswoman said: “The arena proposals were being led through a local campaign group.

“The site that the group were most recently exploring is situated adjacent to the proposed prison site at Inverness East.

“The Bught Park proposal for which Levelling Up funding was secured is an additional project for the improvement of existing facilities and is not a redirection of any other funding or resources.”

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