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Olympic dreams for York St John University's new sports facilities

York’s sporting past, present and future was celebrated at York St John University’s recently acquired outdoor facilities York St John University Sports Centre Nestlé Rowntree Park, where at least two Olympic winners are known to have trained, on Wednesday 23 May 2012. 

The event gave University staff, students and the local community an opportunity to find out more about the future plans for the 57 acre site on Haxby Road, while showcasing some of the sporting talents of current York St John University students.

There was also an opportunity to meet York Knights head coach and player Chris Thorman who has captained England on two occasions, and community development coach Jack Stearman who coached a game of tag rugby on the day.

Photographs, trophies and memorabilia from the university and Nestle archives displayed York’s sporting history.  Sport has always played an important role at York St John University where students can currently study a range of sports degrees, which include sports science programmes that are endorsed by the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences.  The University’s sports clubs and societies have always been involved in local sports and many members have gone on to be great success stories, including Jack Harrison who was Rugby League's only Victoria Cross winner and Matt Messais who became a premier league referee in 2000. 

The sports fields on Haxby Road have a legacy of their own, with at least two Olympic winners training on the fields when they were owned by Rowntree’s.  Many York residents will have fond memories of spectating or competing in events on the fields during the company’s annual Sports Days which in their heyday ran for over 50 consecutive years. 

Professor David Fleming, Vice Chancellor at York St John University, said: “This event was a celebration of the York St John University Sports Centre Nestlé Rowntree Park acquisition and the launch of our new long term plan for sport This is one of the best sporting facilities in York and we are in a strong position to not only maintain this high standard but to enhance it further for existing users, the local community and students.  It would be wonderful if we could train some future Olympians on our site.”

Nestle archivist Alex Hutchinson said: “It’s fantastic that York St John is continuing the tradition to bring the community together through sport.  The Rowntree’s Sports Day was always enjoyed by employees and residents of York because it was a big day out for everyone.  Although the races were only really open to employees and their wives and children, we can be pretty certain that their friends and neighbours will have turned up to see them compete.”

York St John University and Nestle would love to hear from anyone who has fond sporting memories of the playing fields or the University.  Those wishing to share their memories can contact Alex Hutchinson alex.hutchinson@uk.nestle.com or Brett Arnall York St John University, Lord Mayor’s Walk, York YO31 7EX or B.Arnall@yorksj.ac.uk. Brett would also love to hear from anyone with sporting photographs that they would like to share with the University. 

Picture shows: York City Knights player and coach Chris Thorman with John Maw as he takes the first kick of the rugby ball.