By Katy Barden
As the legacy of Glasgow 2014 was overtaken by Birmingham 2022, Ayr Seaforth AC’s committee has grasped the opportunity to maximise the club’s potential at a time when its new facility is providing a catalyst for change.
Based at Dam Park Stadium in Ayr since its formation in 1961, the club will soon be relocating to a new Community Sports Hub in Craigie.
Community Sports Hubs bring together clubs and key local partners who want to develop and grow the sporting offering in the community. They focus on sustainable, community-led approaches that get clubs working together to develop welcoming, safe, and fun environments for sport.
The landmark project is expected to be completed later this year and will feature an eight-lane 400m track, 60m indoor track, field events area, 3G all-weather pitch, accessible changing areas, and a purpose-built all-seated grandstand.
Amongst the many memories Ayr Seaforth will leave behind are those linked to its Commonwealth Games throwing cage, a Hampden hand-me-down, but the club is reluctant to dwell on the past when its future is full of exciting possibilities.
‘There’s no indoor training space at Dam Park, so a big bonus is that the new facility will have indoor sprints and jumps, which will be transformative,’ says club secretary William Marshall-Watt of the new campus.
The club has clear objectives and while there are many recent individual highlights – including a national triple jump record (U17) for Libby White and frame running world record for Kayleigh Haggo – collaboration is key to the next generation of success.
Libby White has had an excellent 2022 and is pictured here in triple jump at Loughborough (photo by Bobby Gavin)
‘We’ve been having a lot of conversations with Active Schools who have been taking a lead role with the new community hub,’ says Marshall-Watt.
‘They have quite ambitious plans for Craigie’s long-term future and want to create a sporting school of excellence, so there’s a lot of development there across different sports and we’re having conversations with all of those partners.
‘It’s still in the early stages but we’re looking to embed Ayr Seaforth as a club better into the community.
‘Historically, the club has managed to stand on its own two feet and really just work in isolation. We’ve benefited from some great leaders who have come in and spent many years steering the club forward.
‘But times have changed. We’ve had the pandemic and we’re trying to recover from that.
‘We’re now looking at how we secure the long-term future of the club and make sure it’s on stable ground, so it’s great that we have the option to lean on our partners and tap into their resources, because we’re really going to need that in the future.’
Affiliation with Active Schools’ ‘Club Ready’ programme has been beneficial for Ayr Seaforth in terms of accessing support for their club development plans, free coach education and resources for talented athletes, and support for athletes and their families where there may be barriers to participation.
An artist impression of the new facility in Ayr
‘Again, it’s about taking steps to embed the club into the community and build links,’ says Marshall-Watt.
Crucial to that objective is the recruitment of a new club development officer (Kirstin Oakley) – made possible due to a successful application for impact funding – to help expand participation in athletics into the Ayr North community where there is a higher rate of deprivation.
‘We looked at our past membership base and we noticed from the data that we had low membership rates from children in the Ayr North community,’ says Marshall-Watt.
‘We want to increase our membership from children from within that area, plus our volunteer base, and get them involved in the club. Physically we’re located in that area and Ayr Academy is next to the new facility, so it makes sense.’
Last ever Club Champs at Dam Park Stadium were held last Sunday. Thank you all who made it such a great day. Result and photos are now on the website:https://t.co/R7BkrsKkJK
Thank you @KillieHarriers for providing graded officials 😀
— Ayr Seaforth AC (@ayrseaforth) September 15, 2022
Marshall-Watt is proud of the club’s commitment to community and stakeholder engagement: ‘Coming into the club, from what I’ve heard, I think in the past there was quite a big focus on performance athletics, so I think this is a shift for the club.
‘We’re really focused on the community-based side and working closely with Active Schools. One example is what Kirstin is doing right now, delivering athletics sessions on behalf of Active Schools for children in P5-7 and in S1, but branded as ‘Ayr Seaforth’.
‘They do a block of sessions and then it’s about linking them to the club and showing what we can offer them. It’s a great experience for us. It’s the biggest collaboration we’ve done and we’re excited about it.
‘This is a big year in terms of competition, so we’re going to see interest in athletics grow based on the Commonwealths, Worlds and Europeans. Then of course there’s interest in the new facility, so we want to capitalise on that.
‘We expect this one to be a slow burner. It’s very phased and we’re doing it in a controlled and steady way because it’s all quite new to us, but we’re confident this link with Active Schools is the beginning of something special and we’re excited about what the future holds for the club.’