22nd July 2018
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Popular gymnastics club seeks permanent home

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Shetland Gymnastics Club is seeking a new, and permanent, location as interest in the sport grows in the afterglow of the London Olympics.

Eighty children are on the waiting list in the hope they might join the ever-popular fitness group. Some of those were inspired by the games and are already aiming to be the next Louis Smith or Beth Tweddle.

But the club is struggling to accommodate the 164 members it has on its books just now. It is unable to expand and buy in new equipment until a new home is found.

Currently the club divides its time between the Clickimin Centre in Lerwick and the Scalloway Games Hall. It has contacted the council in the hope that permanent space can be found.

Head coach Julie Grant, who was one of the torchbearers during the Olympic flame’s procession across the country in the run-up to the games, says the lack of space is preventing the club from buying in new equipment – and the equipment that it does have, inconveniently, has to be stored away after use.

She said the problem was not a new one and stretched back to when the club was first formed seven years ago. However, the advent of the games prompted new hopefuls to come forward.

Mrs Grant said: “This goes right back to when we started in 2005. It’s due to a lack of available facilities. We have been pushing this for three or four years because we can’t get more hall space at the Clickimin or at the Scalloway Games Hall, and we are needing something. We’ve been in contact with every councillor for the last two to three years.”

She said the club had sent a development plan to the council’s assets and properties and leisure and recreation.

“We’ve been quite publicly open about the need for a new venue. We can’t push it to the level we would like until we get one. We have coaches willing to do more, but no time-slots available.

“To get the equipment, we need to have somewhere where it can be laid out permanently. We have the bars, of the kind that Beth Tweddle won her medal on, a vault and a beam, but we haven’t got a sprung floor because it has to be laid down permanently wherever it goes.”

Mrs Grant said there was an anticipated growth in male competitors in Shetland, following Team GB’s winning of a bronze medal during the games.

SIC sports and leisure manager Neil Watt said he sympathised with the gymnastics club. The council was determined to work with the club to try to find a solution, but there was currently a great demand on any accommodation which might be suitable.

Mr Watt said: “There is no obvious solution at the moment. There are premises they would be interested in, but at this time there is difficulty for many sports in Shetland, in that there is a far greater desire for facilities than there is space at the moment – particularly at peak times, like in the early evening hours from Monday to Friday.

“We want to try to help in every way we can, and to resolve the problem, but there is no easy solution. We, as a department, meet with sports clubs regularly to look at what their needs are.

“Over the next week we will be meeting with them, and this will be the hot topic that we will be looking at with them. I don’t have a solution to hand, but there is a commitment to resolve the problem.”

About Ryan Taylor

Ryan Taylor has worked as a reporter since 1995, and has been at The Shetland Times since 2007, covering a wide variety of news topics. Before then he reported for other newspapers in the Highlands, where he was raised, and in Fife, where he began his career with DC Thomson. He also has experience in broadcast journalism with Grampian Television. He has lived in Shetland since 2002, where he harbours an unhealthy interest in old cars and motorbikes.

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