IT has been a long time coming, but Morpeth’s new athletics track has crossed the finish line.
Representatives of Morpeth Harriers and other organisations involved in the project got to see the new £1.2million facility, which includes equipment and structures for field events, on the grounds of King Edward VI School yesterday.
The club has continued to thrive without a track of its own and it has achieved regional and national success in cross country events and road races, but it has meant some promising youngsters have moved elsewhere to further their career in the sport.
Members are now looking forward to hosting home league athletics meetings in the town along with regular training sessions. Secretary Mike Bateman said: “It did take a little while longer in the final stage because of the rain, but we’ve been waiting for more than 25 years so we didn’t mind waiting another couple of months.
“Opening now means we’ve had a decent amount of time to work on a programme of competitions for next season and we can stage a few events to get the track up and running over the summer.”
KEVI has also benefited enormously from the project as part of the funding has been used to purchase a new synthetic surface for the school’s existing shale all-weather sports area, make improvements to four football and rugby pitches and renovate changing rooms.
Headteacher Simon Taylor said: “A few years ago our governors made PE one of the priority areas to resource better and so the combination of our own funds and some of the money from the project has allowed us to make some major improvements.”
Plans for the school site were progressed a few years ago when proposals to develop Craik Park encountered problems.
A Sport England grant of £536,000 through its Community Investment Fund enabled construction work to begin.
Northumberland County Council has contributed £455,255 as well as £40,000 from its Aiming High Fund, £175,000 has come from KEVI and £19,802 was raised by Morpeth Harriers.
Other money came from the Banks charitable foundation and Morpeth county councillors.
Blyth Valley Arts and Leisure has project managed the scheme.
Its leisure development manager Nathan Rogerson said: “The Harriers have been brilliant with us and we’re delighted for them that the project has finally been completed.”