The team leading a new £9million sports facility in Elgin believe the complex could deliver a huge economic boost to the region.
Moray Sports Centre is due to open next month, offering a cavernous multi-purpose hall with a separate gym, indoor cycling room and yoga studio as well as a cafe and restaurant capable of seating 140.
The complex will sustain more than 100 full-time jobs when fully staffed and has already pulled off a coup by securing a deal to host the World Karate Commission’s (WKC) Scottish championship, against competition from other venues.
About 300 competitors are due to descend on the centre in August alongside coaches and spectators from across the country.
Yesterday contractors were making finishing touches to the fitness rooms so that equipment can start to be delivered to the site.
Chief executive Kathryn Evans hopes the centre’s influence on Moray will extend beyond solely sport.
She said: “I think you need to look beyond just the fitness benefits. We’re going to be hosting competitions with space for up to 500 spectators.
“The events we want to attract will interest people not just from Moray, but potentially from across the country.
“That kind of thing will boost the local economy too because people will spend their money elsewhere while they’re here.
“We really want to put Moray on the map and attracting competitions will help our local groups because they won’t have to travel so far.”
Preparations are being made so that the large hall will be able to host basketball, netball, badminton and table tennis among other sports.
The building is just the first phase of the complex, which could eventually cost up to £12 million, with more facilities, including indoor tennis courts, being planned.
Operations manager Gail Cleaver hopes the sports centre will reverse a trend of moving elsewhere to seek a job in the sector.
She said: “I love recruiting and seeing people coming out of their shells.
“We want to give school leavers jobs to go to with apprenticeship programmes to become coaches, personal trainers and fitness instructors so they don’t have to move away.
“There is a worry that people don’t stay or come back to Moray when they’re young but we’ve already had people relocating here to be part of it.”
On the field, Kathryn Evans reached the pinnacle of her sport during her 20-year career by representing her native Wales in the heptathlon.
Today she remains involved in sport as a tutor for netball umpires across the north of Scotland.
And now the retired athlete hopes her unique perspective of using sports centres to an elite level will help tailor the Elgin complex, which is being financed by the Moray Sports Foundation charity, to aspiring local stars.
Ms Evans said: “I’ve been involved in the industry for 20 years and worked in big sports centres for tennis in London, so I’ve seen that side of it too.
“I’ve also worked in public and private sectors so I’ve got a broad view of what works and what doesn’t.
“I know it as a user and as an athlete so I think that does give me an added insight.”
Operations manager Gail Cleaver hopes the building will surpass expectations when it opens next month.
She said: “It’s very rare that new facilities like this get opened. The last time Moray had something like this open was in the 1980s.
“I think it’s very easy to have an idea of what this place will be. We want to exceed those expectations as soon as people walk in the door.”