Royal visit marks new Canal Park success

A state of the art new leisure facility is set to mark the latest chapter in the history of the north of Scotland’s most celebrated rugby club.

Almost two years after a turf cutting ceremony on 10 May 2016 to mark the start of the Canal Park Enhancement works, the Highland Rugby Club has celebrated its fabulous new home with an official opening by Scottish Rugby’s Patron, Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal.

470 Primary 6 Pupils from Schools throughout the Inverness area are participating in a Festival of Touch Rugby to commemorate the Official Opening of Highland Rugby Club. Balloch, Balnain, Cauldeen, Central, Cradlehall, Crown, Dalneigh, Duncan Forbes, Hilton, Invergarry, Kirkhill, Merkinch, Milton of Leys and Muirtown were all involved in adapted touch rugby games on Highland Rugby Club’s new artificial surface.

The West Link and associated sports facilities which include Canal Park, form part of the Council’s contribution to the City-Region Deal investment by partners. In addition to £4.1m from the Council to create the Canal Park facility, sportscotland invested £0.5m in the project.

The project also benefited from an award of £40,000 from Scottish Rugby’s Club Sustainability Fund which provides investment to rugby clubs to develop their facilities and enhance infrastructure.

Construction of the new clubhouse, artificial pitch and two new grass pitches at Canal Park began in the summer of 2017 along with the building of Stage 1 of the West Link road, and was completed in October 2017. During the construction phase Highland Rugby Club relocated to the Inverness High School playing field and changing rooms. Stage 1 of the West Link Road was completed and opened to traffic in December 2017.

The state of the art community facility is managed by High Life Highland in partnership with Highland Rugby Club. The sporting facility for the use of the wider community boasts a superb function space and spectators balcony with catering facilities, top class changing facilities and pitches.

The Clubhouse on the ground floor has eight changing rooms, two Officials changing rooms, Physio/First Aid Room, Strength and Conditioning room, Offices, Stores and toilet facilities for disabled and spectators. On the First Floor accessible by lift and stairs is a Function Room and spectators’ balcony, Clubroom, Kitchen, Bar and male & female toilet facilities suitable for disabled. The eight changing rooms can be used by both male and female players simultaneously, thus underlining Highland RFC’s commitment to be an inclusive club, welcome to all.

There is a new artificial pitch to full rugby playing standard (World Rugby compliant) with floodlighting also to playing standard. In addition, there is a new full-size grass pitch, new junior pitch partly floodlit to training standard and a new car parking area.

The Calcutta Cup, won by Scotland 25-13 against England at BT Murrayfield last month, and presented to Scotland captain John Barclay on the day by the Princess Royal, was also on display at Canal Park for today’s official opening.

Andy Little, Chairman of Highland Rugby Club said: “The completion of the Canal Park Redevelopment marks a new chapter in the history of Highland Rugby Club and provides our club and the wider rugby and sporting community with state of the art sporting facilities. When the club embarked on the discussions with Highland Council on the way forward for the West Link Road I never thought that the outcome would be what we have today.”

“This would not have been possible without the input from Highland Council, Sportscotland, High Life Highland and especially our club members who served on our working group. It has taken a lot of time and effort. The results are outstanding in terms of uptake in playing numbers at all age grades and increase in volunteers and new coaches coming forward to help at our club.”

Rob Flockhart, President of Scottish Rugby, said: “Congratulations to everyone involved in creating a superb new home for Highland that is absolutely appropriate for the 21st century and will give an added incentive to everyone, from adults to young boys and girls in and around Inverness, to make rugby their sport of choice.

“I am also delighted that our Patron, Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal, has once again underlined our collective commitment to the importance of growing the grassroots of our game.”

Chair of the Planning, Development and Infrastructure Committee, Cllr Allan Henderson said: “Canal Park is a tremendous community facility and provides a home to Highland Rugby Club which they can be very proud of.

“The enhanced sporting facilities are an important part of the West Link project which is a major contribution by the Council to the City Region Deal. The benefits will be felt much wider than Inverness, with easier links and improved journey times for those coming from and going to Lochaber and other areas in the west with sporting facilities available to all across Inverness and the wider Highlands. The scheme also supports active travel through new cycling and walking routes around the surrounding area.

“In addition to the health and environmental benefits, the economic return of £4 for every £1 spent on the project will benefit the whole region.”


Image: Alison White Photography