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Winchester sports clubs press for new facility
Winchester could benefit from having two specialist sports centres.
That was the view of some of the cities sports clubs at a special city council summit this week to explore the future of sport in Winchester.
Around 80 people from 50 different clubs across 30 sports were represented at the meeting on Monday evening at Winchester Guildhall.
They were divided up into teams and given specific characters to examine – like 12-year-old schoolchild Ben, 23-year-old young professional Chloe and 48-year-old middle class professional Philip – and asked to suggest what sporting provision each would need.
But the debate quickly came back to the long-running issue of River Park Leisure Centre and whether it should be repaired or replaced with a new facility at Bar End.
The council has still not decided which option is more viable financially but club representatives said a new indoor sports centre could complement River Park if the latter was used for outdoor sports.
Michaela McCallum, of Winchester and District Athletic Club (WADAC), said: “You could take things out of River Park and have it as an outdoor centre and then have another facility at Bar End for indoor sports. Bar End has massive potential for success.”
Sarah Radburn, chairman of Winchester Netball Club, said: “If you put a centre of excellence at Bar End it would be right by the motorway with the parking facilities already there. You could attract international sport to the area and that is very, very doable.”
Eddie Owusu, of Winchester City Basketball Club, added: “As a venue River Park has a lot of potential. The facilities are currently substandard but in terms of size a lot can be held there. It does need to be refurbished but it could become a one-stop shop for the area.”
The Gordon Road centre came under heavy criticism for its current provision.
Julie Passingham, a county council swimming coach, said: “It’s not nice at River Park. I teach there every day and I see what goes on and I can see where it’s cracking up and falling apart. It’s not nice to teach at let alone swim there.”
Ms Radburn added: “I would not swim at River Park if you paid me. The facilities there are not luxury.”
Other ideas suggested for the future of Winchester were taster days for young children to explore several sports and for older people and parents to try their hand at coaching.
Earlier in the evening the council celebrated the effect of the Paralympics and Olympics on the city, with 80,000 people involved in events over five months.
The crowd heard 10 per cent of medals won in both games were by Hampshire athletes while the county also had the most athletes in the Team GB Olympic squad.
Cllr Patricia Stallard, portfolio holder for communities, culture and sport, said all suggestions would be considered for a five-year sports strategy for Winchester, drawn up with help from Winchester District Sports Activity Alliance (SPAA).
She said: “I want to say a huge thank you to everyone for coming. I have heard some great ideas and we will listen to what you have said this evening and do our utmost to take on board these ideas and proposals and put them together into a strategy.”
The full strategy should be produced within two months.