An artificial sports pitch will only be added to the new Anderson High School project if there is “enough money in the pot”, SIC councillors agreed this week.
The full council rubber-stamped a formal “project request” for a new school, halls of residence and extension to Clickimin’s sports centre on Wednesday. In doing so, members decided to include a plastic surface as an “aspiration” rather than a “requirement”.
Opinions differ among councillors as to the importance of such a facility, long desired by Shetland’s football and hockey fraternities to allow the season to be extended into the winter months.
The council’s project manager Trevor Smith said that, based on the latest figures supplied by sportscotland, the indicative cost of a “3G” football pitch would be between £800,000 and £1.25 million at mainland prices.
The exact price would depend on what type of surface councillors opted for, and whether things like fencing and floodlights were included. The extra cost of building in the isles could also increase the price tag.
The estimated overall budget for the new AHS is £42 million, two-thirds of which will come from the Scottish government.
If an artificial surface does not come within the “affordability cap”, the SIC would have the options of reducing spending on other parts of the new building, or funding the pitch separately from its reserves.
“That sounds crazy to me”, said councillor Drew Ratter, “but I’ll wait and see what happens.”
The AHS project’s client adviser, James Armitage, has close Shetland connections. He has also worked on big projects including Wimbledon Centre Court’s sliding roof and the Kirkwall Grammar School.
Mr Armitage said the most logical location for an artificial pitch would be to the south of Clickimin, where there is currently a grass football surface.
He said the project boundary could “very easily” be enlarged to include a synthetic surface, or the pitch could be built “completely independently”. “Either option is perfectly practicable,” he said.
Education and families committee chairwoman Vaila Wishart said members had agreed to “keep it in as an aspiration – it won’t happen unless there’s money in the pot for it to happen, but the priority is to get the school built in the first instance”.
Councillor Theo Smith said he felt the SIC was “very quickly approaching the last-chance saloon here”. Most members shared his concern that making the pitch a “requirement” rather than an “aspiration” could risk upsetting Hubco, the organisation tasked with overseeing the AHS project.
If the project request is accepted, designs will be drawn up this autumn and it is hoped construction at lower Staney Hill can begin in spring 2014.
Ms Wishart said: “I think this is such an exciting project. There have been a lot of glitches along the way, and I’m sure there’ll be more glitches to come. [I’m] delighted that we’ve got to the stage of being able to submit the new project request.”