Site revealed for McLaren rugby centre proposal

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THE Volunteer Park/Buccleuch Park area has been identified as the preferred site to host the Bill McLaren Centre for World Rugby.

And the multi-million pound development, which is at a very early stage, will include a redevelopment of the whole sporting provision in the area.

Presentations of the ambitious proposals have been made to all interested parties, including Linden RFC, Wanderers RFC, tennis and cricket clubs and Hawick Sports Initiative (HSI).

And a group is to be set up in the next seven days in a bid to take the plans forward.

Bill McLaren Foundation director Brian Renwick told the Hawick News: “In January the Bill McLaren Foundation agreed in principal that the preferred site for the Centre for World Rugby should be explored at the Volunteer Park and Buccleuch Park area.

“Our intention would be to work with community partners to develop sporting provision within that area which would create the surrounds in which to site the Centre for World Rugby’.

“I’m going to be heading up a steering group that’s going to bring all the partners together to see what sports provision the community would use or desire.”

Although initial outline plans include a brand new 3G pitch – similar to the one created at Netherdale in Galashiels – as well as another new pitch and associated car parking for the centre, Mr Renwick stressed that everything at the moment was just at the idea stage and no firm proposals had been made.

He added: “We’d like to get to a situation where we had a blank canvas for the whole area where we could create a unique multi-sport facility.

“The only area that we would be keen to retain would be the cricket square.

“It’s important to say that it is in its very early stages. There is a lot of work and challenges ahead to make this happen.

“While we’re excited at the potential this development has, we need to realise, in this current economic climate, we might not be able to get everything we wish for.”

It is understood funding applications would be made to a number of bodies including Sportscotland.

Regarding the actual centre itself, Mr Renwick said: “What we want is an iconic building that would fit with the world stature in which Bill McLaren ‘The Voice of Rugby’ was held.”

The concept was discussed at a meeting of the HSI on Monday night when it received the full backing from members.

And after completing the first stage with the all-weather pitch, chairman David Davidson said they were looking forward to working together to progress their ambitions further.

He said: “As the Bill McLaren Foundation had an aim to develop a sporting ethos for all young people, as he had spent his life doing, it was sensible to work with them and other clubs using the area to deliver better facilities for Hawick.”

Meanwhile, it has also been warmly welcomed by current Volunteer Park tenants, the Linden and Wanderers.

Alan Stirling, who is secretary of the Volunteer Park User Group, said: “The opinion of the vast majority of people was the anything that would improve the facilities is a good thing.

“It is important, however, that the current clubs using the Volunteer Park are given priority on any future pitches and changing facilities.”