Sporting groups are calling for better provision in the old Anderson High School site as work to establish a new future for the Knab gathers pace.
The Shetland Gymnastics Club has been left disappointed after long-running talks aimed at taking over the old games hall came to nothing.
It hopes to secure a place in the old D-block section of the building which housed the school’s science department.
The organisation outgrew the Clickimin Centre almost a decade ago, and has been looking for a new location ever since.
Meanwhile, calls for a new artificial hockey pitch in the old site have also emerged.
The Shetland Hockey Association is proposing a new “multi-use” pitch be built. An online petition, launched by hockey player Ashley Burgess, has gathered almost 400 signatures.
Both groups plan to attend a workshop due to be held in the old school’s assembly hall this evening [Tuesday] from 6.30pm. The event is being hosted by 7N Architects which is involved in the development of a so-called masterplan for the site. 7N gave a presentation at Monday night’s Lerwick Community Council meeting.
Head gymnastics coach Julie Grant said: “We outgrew Clickimin about seven or eight years ago.
“We were in talks with Assets and Properties about three or four years ago. We were going through an asset transfer for the games hall, and 18 months down the line they then told us that was going to be demolished.
“We were a bit devastated. We felt a bit angry because we were meeting and emailing the same people, and it took them 18 months to tell us that.”
She said the club had been told the building was “not in a great state of repair”.
“I worked in the science department, and we turned our focus to the D-block, which is in a better state of repair. It has the length, the height, and it’s quite open plan.”
She said letters and petitions had been submitted to the council, as well as other similar user groups running Pilates classes and sessions in massage therapy. But she did not know whether the old science block would be made available.
“We’re pushing it as much as we can. This is our last opportunity to find somewhere.”
She said the club had 150 children who come three times a week. But there are over 170 on the waiting list, meaning the club has the potential to more than double if it had its own facility.
“Every time we try to do something we hit a brick wall. I think we are one of the only sports up here that doesn’t have the proper facilities to train in.
“Our gymnasts went to a Scottish Gymnastics competition in Perth two weekends ago without having performed the routine on the correct equipment. They had to go in and perform, basically, for the first time.”
An artificial hockey pitch is available in Brae. But the local hockey club maintains the need for an adequate playing surface in the Central Mainland is “bigger than ever”.
A post on the change.org website says Shetland Ladies Hockey has “progressed so much” in recent years, in particular with their progression in the Scottish District Cup. They reached the finals last year and say they are well on there way to another final in 2018.
“Shetland are also making great achievements, narrowing the gap each year in the senior inter-county against Orkney, with this year’s game being one of the best we have seen Shetland perform.
“An additional pitch in Shetland to play on will even better their chances.”
They also have concerns that some South Mainland players, including juniors, are being put off because of the need to make a “100-mile journey to and from the Midway pitch”.
“Most parents don’t have the luxury these days of staying home to ferry children to and from after school clubs.
“So when it comes time to progressing boys and girls in hockey, after the fundamentals stage, unless we can get them to Brae, which at this moment is near impossible, then unfortunately their hockey has to stop, and they aren’t given the equal opportunity to play on an appropriate surface.”
Shetland Islands Council says 7N Architects are developing a place making strategy for the Knab site, based on a development brief derived from previous engagement with the community.
Development chairman Alastair Cooper said: “We’re keen to hear from anyone with an interest in the future of the Knab site, to help to develop the masterplan, that will also enhance Lerwick. The team are looking forward to working with the community to develop a vision that is worthy of this unique site.”
Contributions can also be made online.
To sign the hockey association’s petition, log on to change.org.
• For more from Tuesday’s public events, see this week’s Shetland Times.