Now the leisure centre has a springboard

Fay Howard lets rip with the Champers to celebrate the re-opening of the Stocksbridge Leisure Centre
Fay Howard lets rip with the Champers to celebrate the re-opening of the Stocksbridge Leisure Centre

A fundraising drive is being stepped up in the wake of the official reopening of Stocksbridge leisure centre in the hands of the local community.

Less than nine months after the council said it could no longer afford the operating costs, the centre is now being run by volunteers after a vigorous campaign to save the complex.

Permanent staff are being appointed, but the long term future depends on funds being secured from a number of sources.

Stocksbridge Town Council is promising a subsidy - unspecified so far - and the city council is being asked to make a contribution.

Campaign group 4SLC is rallying local people through membership schemes. So far 85 people have signed up for an initial deal on gym membership at £15 a month (going up to £17.50). A leisure card, giving a 40% discount of facilities, costs £4 a month.

For the moment, the focus is on generating use of the ‘dry’ facilities, such as badminton, squash, basketball, table tennis, five-a-side football and bowls with the campaign group able to tap into £125,000 that the council had earmarked for mothballing costs such as security. Clubs have already been back for a couple of months.

The gym, with 30 machines, is due to be in full use from January 2, after the purchase of a couple of treadmills, and when the centre will be fully relaunched.

In the longer term, 4SLC hopes to secure funds to reopen the swimming pool.

Sunday’s relaunch was a “very emotional day”, said spokesperson Fay Howard. “We have achieved so much in less than a year.

“There have been times when some people have thought we were fighting a losing battle, but then others have helped to pick them up. It’s a fantastic achievement, and it’s absolutely amazing how much support we have had.”

Now one of the key jobs is to appoint a general manager. When the post was advertised, 48 applications were received on the first day. A shortlist of 28 is being whittled down.

Already Jo Hance has been appointed sports development officer.

The centre was officially reopened on Sunday by boxers Glyn Rhodes and Sam Sheady, with visitors being offered the chance to try some of the activities.

GB paralympic table tennis champion Will Bayley gave a demonstration.

Musical came from Deepcar Brass Band, the New Orleans strollers, Stocksbridge High School samba band and Silkstone School Orchestra, and Greentop Circus gave a demonstration.