The Halesowen gymnastics club of Olympic medal-winner Kristian Thomas has hit “rock bottom” after a much-needed move in the town was scuppered at the eleventh hour – resulting in the loss of an almost £300,000 sports grant.
Earls Gymnastics Club was to start work this week on an active health centre at the former Wheel Spin go-karting track in Dudley Road after receiving planning permission from Dudley Council.
The move from the club’s existing home at Earls High School was described as critical to the club’s future and was to be paid for by the £281,000 grant awarded by British Gymnastics in November.
But a breakdown in negotiations between the club and a prospective new landlord this week ended any chance of the 20-year lease being agreed – and sees the club lose the cash grant, which must be spent by the end of March.
Club chairman Jon Caulwell said the problems lay over an £80,000 deposit required for security of the site.
He said, despite the club already having a planning application in for a gym in Netherton, no site would be ready to start work on before the grant’s expiry date ran out, leaving the club penniless for a new move. He said: “It has been very very disappointing, we have literally been left at rock bottom at the very last moment. Coaches and members have been despondent about what to do next.
“It is my job as chairman to start us up again, look for a new site and get chasing funding again – we have 550 children to think about.”
The proposed gymnastic centre would have enabled bosses to double membership to above 1,000, assisting the club to pay for its annual £100,000 expenditure. As well as providing facilities for its members, it would have had a soft play area and fitness and health suites for the community to use.
In preparing the plans for the Halesowen and Netherton sites, the club has paid out about £15,000 in fees. Mr Caulwell said: “It has been a bitter pill to swallow – to get so far, but to fall at the last moment. I’m gutted for everyone, not just the members, but the surrounding community which would have been able to use the facilities. We campaigned so hard for the sports grant - but now we have to start all over again.”