Users of the Link Centre sports hall and climbing wall have hit out at a plan to close an important community based sport and recreation facility.
Although Link Centre management company GLL has shelved the idea of relocating the library in the building upstairs and creating a giant ground floor gym where the library is now, they have now come up with the idea of an extreme trampoline park covering 1,200 square metres. (See the GLL statement below)
This means all the community sport and recreation groups, activities and classes will have to be relocated or closed.
It also means the largest climbing wall in the region will be shut down.
GLL, which manages Link Centre under its Better brand, intend the trampoline park to be installed at the end of June. It will be a series of interconnected safety padded trampolines which can be used by up to 100 people at a time. The project is part of a £2million investment in the centre and will include newly created, dedicated birthday party rooms and a refurbished café.
A relatively new concept in the UK, the trampoline park will be accessible to all sectors of the community offering group events, sports training and children’s party bookings.
Paul Shearman, partnership manager for Better, said: “The trampoline park will be one of the very first of its kind to launch in the UK. It will be open to everyone regardless of fitness levels, age or experience, with fully trained coaches on hand to provide expert help and advice.”
However the move has horrified Val Hague from Haydon Wick who swims at the centre and plays badminton in the sports hall. “I’ve been a direct debit member for 17 years, but I’ll be looking elsewhere. I imagine hundreds of others will too.
“As an accountant I cannot believe Better are going to risk their underlying subscription income for a new idea that could turn out to be a fad brought in from the USA.
“The community is going to lose a central location for fitness classes, basketball, martial arts clubs, badminton, roller hockey, 5-a-side football and kids coaching, wheelchair rugby and disability access days for schools.”
Martin Newman, secretary of Swindon Mountaineering Club, said his members are upset to learn of the closure of The Ridge climbing wall. “Prior to the transfer of Link Centre to Better, the club asked council representatives at the Swindon Sports Forum about the future of the wall and we were given an assurance that the climbing wall would continue after the facilities had been transferred.
“Residents of Swindon were given a wider assurance that the current level of services and facilities would be continued after being transferred to Better.
“The wall was built with a lottery grant of £74,000 from Sport England. We think it is disgraceful that a lottery funded facility can be closed by a private company in this way.
“Swindon Mountaineering Club was a key stakeholder when the lottery bid was being prepared, writing a letter of support, accompanying council staff on visits to other climbing walls and commenting on the design, yet we have not been consulted on this decision.
“Climbing is one of the few sports currently growing in popularity and the wall is normally busy.
“This closure might be more understandable if a new alternative had been built in Swindon, that is taking away business, this is clearly not the case. The Ridge is a good climbing wall and it is the only such facility in Swindon, with the nearest alternatives an hour away in Bristol or Reading.”
A petition has been launched to save The Ridge at Change.org
Like The Ridge Climbing Wall on Facebook
Pictured above, Tuesday evening recreational badminton using half of the Link Centre sports hall, with The Ridge Climbing Wall in the background. Below, a young climber pictured by Richard Wintle of Calyx learning how to tackle The Ridge
Making improvements at The Link Centre, Swindon
Statement issued on 22 May 2015: GLL, who operate under our ‘Better’ brand, took over long-term leases with Swindon Borough Council in November 2014. This arrangement was prompted by the Council’s need to make significant savings over the next three years and will result in a saving of approximately £1.4 million in the annual subsidies it currently provides.
Both Swindon Council and GLL share the same objectives to increase sports and leisure participation, reduce health inequalities and improve social inclusion. As the UK’s largest leisure charitable social enterprise and a not-for-profit organisation, any financial surplus made by GLL is reinvested back into our services. GLL now offers a borough-wide leisure card scheme in Swindon and a concessionary pricing structure including discounts for students and disabled users. Talented athletes across Swindon are now able to access funding from the GLL Sport Foundation.
We do however need to be realistic about the costs and charges of each facility. Our choice has been that we need to refurbish and re-energise these facilities or they will close. Refurbishment works have already started at the Oasis Leisure Centre, which has seen new state-of-the-art gym equipment installed by GLL as well as improvements to the pool changing areas. To date we have committed an initial £3 million of investment of funds to enhance the leisure facilities and services across the borough.
The climbing wall (at Link Centre) currently receives low user levels with a financial loss being made by running it. In addition, a new dedicated climbing facility is due to be opened nearby in the town that we expect will lessen user figures even more.
As such, and following a period of internal consultation, the decision has been made to close the facility to make way for the trampoline park. However, all staff formerly working on the wall will have the opportunity to be redeployed to other positions with the Link Centre.
Our goal is to offer high quality, affordable facilities that are accessible to all in the community so that we can strive to get more people more active more often. The trampoline park will be one of the very first of its kind to launch in the UK. We will be using the latest technology and equipment to provide some really exciting opportunities for the people of Swindon.
The sport provides significant cardiovascular benefits and enhances skills such as agility and balance, and as a low-impact workout, also absorbs significant shock when exercising so is much easier on joints and well-suited for people recovering from injuries.
With an expected annual user uptake of over 65,000, well over the amount currently seen in the facilities it replaces, we are confident we can keep our services open and running for many years to come whilst continually improving access.