Schoolchildren, rugby stars and an Olympics hopeful celebrated the opening of a new athletics facility at Saracens’ Copthall Stadium today.

World Indoor Championship gold medallist Yamile Aldama was one of many voicing their praise for the new jumps area which marks the first step towards Saracens’ £20million revamp of the stadium.

Mrs Aldama said: “I tried it out this weekend and the surface is very good. It’s definitely superior to the one we used to have.”

The grounds will also include an artificial turf pitch and indoor training areas which schools can use free of charge.

Mrs Aldama added: “The work they’re doing here is already really good. And having indoor facilities will make my life so much easier. We suffer a lot in the winter but now it will be better for us.”

Copthall school students were given a chance to try out the new jumps facility which includes run-up tracks and a sand pit.

Cheered on by schoolmates and Sarries’ stars Andy Saull and Justin Melck, 15-year-old Tahlia Weller impressed by-standers with her jumping skills.

After soaring through the air, the young Barnet Shaftesbury Harriers member, said: “I felt extremely privileged. I feel so proud it’s on our doorstep - I’m excited about the new stadium.”

Rugby player Justin Melck is looking forward to Sarries’ move to Copthall in February 2013. He said: “I think it’s good for us to have a real solid base – we need a home to create a real atmosphere.

“The fans, the music, the atmosphere – I think it’s going to be very exciting.”

But the plans have not been without their fair share of controversy.

Campaign to Protect Rural England says the development will harm the green belt and should never have been granted permission.

Copthall Community Initiative (CCI) was also one of the main groups objecting Saracen’s take over.

With the backing of 1,800 people, they argued the plans would damage the green belt and increase traffic and pollution in the area.

However, with Saracens’ already preparing to call Copthall their home, CCI have been forced to think more positively about the move.

CCI's chairman, Paul Herman, said they are currently working alongside Saracens to make sure Copthall remains a place for the whole community to use and enjoy.