Grand designs or necessity?

Peter McCabe, managing director of SportsBuild, guides schools through how to make an idea for a sports facility become a reality, whether it’s a showcase facility or refurbishment

Building new sports facilities usually falls into the following categories:

1) The ‘showcase facility’ – visually impressive facilities such as new sports halls, indoor pools and sports domes that will also significantly improve the way the sport is played, quality of delivery and commercial income for lettings.

2) Broadening scope – creating facilities to expand what sports can be delivered at your school. This could be building all-weather artificial pitches or adding floodlights, offering a wider range of activities that can be delivered all year-round.

3) Refurbishment – this might be improving drainage to grass pitches or converting an old sand-based artificial pitch into a modern surface.

4) Necessity – this tends to be when there are simply not the adequate facilities to deliver a sports curriculum to the same high standards as the academic offer. Starting from scratch on a facility.


When looking into what needs to be addressed to improve facilities, it is key to get a wide consensus of the stakeholders at the school in order to establish what is the priority and what is feasible. For example, the head of PE may be insistent on an indoor Olympic swimming pool, but the head or finance director may be looking at a refurbishment and improvement on the sports facilities they already have.

Developing an idea

When establishing what is a priority, the first question is usually ‘how much?’, closely followed by ‘what will it look like?’, ‘where will it go?’ and ‘how much will it cost to maintain?’ Lots of questions, lots of uncertainty. In the busy life of a school, such endeavours can be kicked into the long grass.

SportsBuild can help you see the wood for the trees and provide a turnkey solution.

This always starts with an informal chat about your idea and needs, then we can draw up 3D images of exactly what it would look like in situ at your school and the outline costs.

All the aforementioned services are completely free; we simply provide you with the designs, costs and timescales so you and your colleagues can then evaluate your options and course of action.

Making the idea happen

If you do then decide to proceed with SportsBuild, the next stage is securing planning permission, then managing the competitive tendering of the various aspects of the build to contractors on their approved providers’ frameworks, selecting the successful contractors with the school and project-managing the build to completion.

Nice idea, pretty designs, but we don’t have the money!

Some of you may say, well that’s all well and good, but we don’t have the reserves we need to allocate to such a project or a well-heeled donor, and we won’t be able to go along the loan route as our finance director doesn’t want to add debt in a loan to the balance sheet. There is still a way.

An operating lease is a unique way to spread the cost of the build, often with the monthly payments being offset or fully covered by the amount earned in lettings.

The key part is that an operating lease is secured upon the asset itself and is a revenue expense, i.e. it does not appear as a debt on your balance sheet, meaning we can finance the facility you need.

Get in touch for an informal chat.
T: 01482 488 077
M: 07535 539 788
Twitter: @SportsBuildL

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