The organiser of a community recreation group which has used the Link Centre sports hall for over 10 years is calling on members of other user groups and people across Swindon to sign an online petition calling on centre managers GLL to keep the hall for a wide variety of sporting and recreational activity, and not convert it into a proposed 1,200 square metre multi-purpose extreme trampoline fitness facility.
• Read a statement by GLL explaining the need to make changes at Link Centre
• West Swindon Councillor Mary Martin expresses her concerns
Suresh Bangalore has opened the petition called Stop closure of sports hall at Link Centre, Swindon at Change.org
He said: “Our social group has been playing badminton at Link Centre for the last 10 years, every weekend, during the week and Bank Holidays, from 8am to 10am.
“Apart from our group, there are activities for children, indoor football, roller skating , lots of families bring their kids for basketball, badminton and table tennis. Other communities use the hall for cultural events and meetings. There are no other alternative halls around to play badminton from 8am; most of them opens after 9am. Our members enjoy the morning workout and then have the whole day to spend time with family.
“The consequence of closing the sports hall at Link centre will not encourage the community to participate and be involved in improving their health and fitness. Link Centre does an enormous amount to bring together men and women and children of different cultures, of all ages from different backgrounds.”
GLL, issued a statement on 23 May focussed on the closure of the climbing wall explaining why changes at Link Centre are necessary. It said:
‘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.
‘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. 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.
With regard to the loss of facilities as a result of the installation of the trampoline in the Link Centre’s sports hall, GLL added: ‘Over the next few weeks we will be contacting hall users and sports clubs to establish their needs. This is so we can still provide the same standard of high quality amenities in the leisure facilities that we operate close by.’
Keen recreational sports person, West Swindon councillor Mary Martin (Shaw & Nine Elms), expressed her concerns to Swindon Link and is calling for an urgent review of the use of the Link Centre climbing wall and sports hall.
She said: “I am very keen to understand more about the usage statistics for the climbing wall and if they have any wider plans in the area for climbers.
“I would like to hear their plans to enhance the centre now GLL are some months into running it. For example, I hear GLL have decided to keep the library in its current location and this will be reassuring to some users who had concerns over possible accessibility issues.
“I would be very, very, disappointed if there is a risk to the sports hall as a whole.
“GLL want to create a vibrant, busy, well-used and accessible centre, with a wide range of attractive sports and leisure options. Surely close dialogue with the local community and the users is the way for them to share plans, set out a positive future vision and create mutual trust, and I am happy to be part of that discussion.
“As a long standing member of sports clubs I am a vociferous and strong advocate of their part in the community ecosystem, their members give much time and commitment to widening participation and player development.
“I also recognise the need for casual usage and availability of facilities, so I am keen to hear from the experts how to balance their needs.”