WORK has been completed on a long-awaited project which will finally see one of the region’s most famous athletics clubs get its own running track.
Morpeth Harriers was founded 65 years ago and went on to become the top track and field outfit in the North East, despite suffering the permanent handicap of not having its own synthetic track on which to train and compete.
Home league matches have to be held almost 20 miles away at Jarrow, and the club was relegated from the national league some years ago, mainly because of its lack of facilities.
Now all that has changed with the completion of a £1m, multi-use sports complex on land next to King Edward VI School in Morpeth.
It includes a six-lane synthetic running track, changing rooms, improvements to the school’s four football pitches and a new synthetic surface for its all-weather sports area.
It will provide a competition and training base for the Harriers, and facilities for young sportsmen and women at the school and in the wider community.
This week King Edward VI School students and staff were joined by representatives of the Harriers, Northumberland County Council and Sport England to inspect the new complex.
Mike Bateman, secretary of Morpeth Harriers, said: “We’ve been looking forward to this day for many years. The new track and other facilities will allow us to develop athletes across a wide-range of events, and give our club a fantastic base in the heart of Morpeth.”
Neil Bradbury, the council’s executive member for customer relations and culture, said: “Encouraging participation in sport is a key part of the council’s work to promote health and well-being in the county. By working with Sport England, King Edward VI School and Morpeth Harriers, we have ensured that the right facilities have been created to achieve this.”
School headteacher Simon Taylor said: “Improvements to sports facilities have been a high priority for our governors for many years, and we’re now keen to see our students and local athletes make full use of them and reap the rewards.”
Sport England chairman, Richard Lewis, added: “This investment, through our Inspired Facilities funding, will create a fantastic sporting legacy for Morpeth. Inspired Facilities has really hit the mark with sports clubs in the North East. For hundreds of clubs and tens of thousands of people, 2012 will be the year their local sports facilities got better.”
Sport England contributed £536,000 to the project, with funding of £455,225 from the county council, £40,000 from the Aiming High Fund, £19,802 from the Harriers, £175,000 from the school and £5,000 from the Banks charitable foundation.
Local county councillors Ian Lindley, David Moore and Andrew Tebbutt supported it by donating their allowances for community schemes towards the cost of athletics equipment for the site.