University of Cambridge helping to create a corridor of sport in the city
New facilities at Wilberforce Road raise the bar to the west of Cambridge
Professor Graham Virgo has hailed the “sporting corridor” that is being created to the west of Cambridge after the official unveiling of the two new hockey pitches at Wilberforce Road.
In a collaboration between Cambridge City Hockey Club, the University of Cambridge and Cambridge City Council, made possible by a donation from Chris and Sarah Field, it has turned the facilities into some of the best in the country.
It also means that there is a development of sports facilities going diagonally across from Grange Road to the university sports centre, much of which is open to town and gown.
“We’re taking sport at the university really seriously,” said Virgo, the University of Cambridge Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor for education.
“The opening of these hockey pitches is really important for collaboration but we are actually ending up with a really quite clear sporting corridor.
“We have the sports centre in West Cambridge, Wilberforce Road athletics and hockey, Grange Road rugby and we are really working hard with the rugby club to improve and develop those facilities.
“These are all linked together so we’re hoping with a bit of time and a bit of money we can really improve what we’ve got.
“There are a lot of collaboration and interactions. With the rowing influence as well, there are all sorts of collaborations on the river between city and university.
“It’s interesting with Cambridge City Hockey Club, of course it is city, but there are children and adults coming from further afield so it is part of a regional hub and a focus within the wider region, and that really fits with what the university is engaging with; we want to engage with the city and the region.
“The Cambridge Rowing Tank [at Downing College boathouse] is a facility obviously for the people of the university, but it is for a lot more wider as well.
“It just shows in the city there is a real interest and desire to engage with the university, but for the university to engage with the people of the city as well.”
With a broad definition of education within Virgo’s title, it means students getting the best of the Cambridge experience, whether that be study, research, learning or extra-curricular, which includes sport.
And that also brings in the aspect of the mental health of students.
“Sport has a really important part to play in helping students cope with the stresses and strains,” said Virgo. “Talking to students, they just need permission to do sport.
“Nobody is saying you can’t, it’s ‘have I got time to do sport?’. To which the answer is ‘yes, it’s good for you and will help your studies’. We’re taking that really, really seriously.
“We’ve done some research recently, fairly limited, but just looking at our students over the last period of time who were awarded Blues and what their exam results were.
“We have proved what I hoped we’d prove, that many of our Blues sports people are exceptional academics – it goes hand in hand.”
Virgo chairs the sports committee at the university, which is raising the profile of sport at the institution, but just as important is reaching out to the wider community.
“Our facilities are not just for our students and our staff, we want them to be open and available for all. It’s really important,” he said.
“Cambridge is changing, the university is changing, we have really good relations with the city and we need to develop that.”