ARENA: LEADING figures from throughout the county have been discussing the sporting future of Crewe. WILLIAM HUGHES reports.
FAST forward to 2010 and Crewe will be a bustling university town with more than 6,000 students among its residents.
The relocation of Manchester Metropolitan University's Cheshire campus to the borough is just one of many opportunities for regeneration in Crewe.
Sport is high on the agenda with the health and recreational benefits that go hand-in-hand with it, and the opportunity to create a thriving multi-sports arena in the centre of town was acknowledged at a summit meeting held to discuss the sporting future of the town.
At the heart of the discussions was the possible development of the Cumberland Arena in Thomas Street, which offers plenty of scope for expansion.
When a campaign was launched three years ago to refurbish the dilapidated athletics track at the arena, the Community Action Group outlined the potential for a multi-sports complex at the site.
It is now hoped the new-look track can act as a catalyst to turn the vision into a reality.
Crewe and Nantwich MP Gwyneth Dunwoody attended the meeting and spoke of her wish to see the Cumberland Arena as a hive of sporting activity for many years to come.
She said: 'I expect the Cumberland to be at the centre of sports development in Crewe for the next century.
'I am highly delighted and encouraged that we can now start the next phase at the Cumberland Arena, which I see as an exciting and imaginative project.' John Richards, the former High Sheriff of Cheshire, is another keen supporter of plans for a multi-sports venue.
He said: 'I was delighted to support the endeavours to further develop the Cumberland Arena. The infrastructure is already in place to create a multi-sports complex and, hopefully, the new athletics track can be a springboard for further expansion.
'I was particularly impressed by the good work being done by the Cheshire Academy of Integrated Sports and Arts, and hopefully they can be relocated to premises which will allow for their visions for added dimensions to their excellent programme. There is certainly a desire to provide a facility that the borough and county can be proud of.'
Bill Consterdine, representing the Community Action Group which helped secure funding for the refurbishment of the athletics track, said: 'The meeting was very positive and I was very encouraged by the attendance of so many busy and influential people from around the county.
'It was good to hear of their support for sport in the area and receive their advice. Now we must review and develop the contributions in further discussions with the borough and county.' Another prominent figure to attend the summit was the Rev William Pwaisiho, honorary Bishop of Chester. He stressed the role sport can play in being a positive influence in the lives of youngsters.
'I believe our young people need to be rescued and sport offers the perfect mechanism to do that,' he said.
'It is healthy to be involved in sports and we need to act urgently to help channel the energy the children of Crewe have to burn into the right direction.
'The hearts and minds of all those who attended are in the right place and the plans are full of future vision, but they need to be developed immediately with the help of the county and the borough.'
MMU's multi-million-pound plans to cent-ralise their Cheshire campus in Crewe will help turn it into the county's leading university town and their presence will offer new opportunities across the sporting spectrum.
Dennis Dunn, dean of MMU Cheshire, made a presentation to the meeting in which he outlined the university's plans.
MMU Cheshire's department of exercise and sports science is among the top three in the country, and Mr Dunn said the university is hoping to look for new ways to encourage use of the Cumberland Arena in line with the advantages of a greater concentration of students at a single Crewe campus.
'Athletics needs to thrive again in Crewe and MMU Cheshire's work within the community will increase as we look to use sport as a trigger for social inclusion and encouraging people to aim higher.'
The English Federation for Disabled Sports has its headquarters at MMU and the university hopes to build on such links as well as working with schools in developing sports programmes and after-school activities.
Claire Wilson, Crewe and Nantwich Borough Council's sports development officer, said the meeting had been very positive.
'I think it was a step towards a centrallylocated community sports site,' she said. 'Lots of issues have to be resolved and we have to make decisions in association with the county, but the next step has to be to keep working together. There are exciting possibilities.'