Sports clubs facing removal from their Fort Regent base are urging the Government to make the facility a world-class sports venue once again, or invest in new permanent facilities for their future.
It comes after the Government announced this week that they will soon be contacted about finding new homes, with UK firm KKP tasked with running a consultation on the future of one of the island's main sports facilities.
While some clubs have questioned the need to move at all, Assistant Minister with responsibility for sport, Deputy Hugh Raymond, said a discussion had to take place because the Fort building "is ageing and needs repair and redevelopment."
Though Julia Falle, who runs Regent Gymnastics, is staying “positive that [the club] will be looked after", she emphasised the need for “stability”, with clear dates for when things are moving forward so clubs can plan.
Pictured: A consultation has been launched into the rehoming of the Fort's sports clubs.
The club is one of the Fort’s mainstays, celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, having been set up by Julia’s father in 1981.
Since then, it has expanded into teaching seven-days-a-week from 09:00 until 21:00, with a wide range of activities including pre-school gymnastics at its Little Monkeys classes, special education programme, adult gymnastics, trampolining, as well as wider community efforts.
When the club was based in Queen’s Hall, it would often have to make way for events like ice rinks and concerts, being moved into smaller areas that were more difficult to maintain with the large influx of members they have, which number up to 500 when in full flow.
Pictured: Julia Falle of Regent Gymnastics spoke about the need for a large permanent space to maintain their classes.
Though they are now situated in the Gloucester Hall area following the establishment of the Vaccination Centre, and only teaching 10 children at a time due to current covid restrictions, Julia wants to see a fixed location for the club as part of future plans when the club can resume their full capacity.
“We do get moved around a lot, so we need some sort of stability,” she said, adding that “we need minimum size of 25x30 metres area.”
“We just need a building, a purpose-built area that we can use permanently so we’re not going to be moved every few months...we could grow and grow - there’s so much more we could offer to the community if we had a permanent facility.”
Roy MacDonald, who has been teaching Kenpo Karate at the Fort for over 30 years, is hoping that the upcoming consultation could lead to the Government keeping sports in the Fort, and investing in improving facilities rather than moving clubs out.
Pictured: Roy MacDonald has been teaching karate at the Fort for over 30 years now.
“I know the building is getting older, needing some work done, but we’re hoping to keep our club premises,” he explained.
"Issue number one: is it possible for the Government to put a bit of money in… to sort the leaks, to sort out a few of the sell-by date problems they have, which might take a couple of million? We’re hoping they might be able to do that."
Emphasising the perks of being at the Fort in comparison to using venues like school and parish halls, he said: “We’ve got our own premises here - we can put mirrors up, placards, we can put boards up, have marks, whereas if you’re in a gymnasium, you’ve got to get out at at a certain time, and you can’t do anything else.”
However, he acknowledged that moving out may well be on the cards, adding that he hopes there will be an appropriate transition period if so.
Mr MacDonald emphasised the importance of suitably housing the clubs in the interim and not just leaving them to share local halls. “To say to 85 of our kids that you can’t train anymore, that would be drastic - they’re going through the belt ranks, it’s like a whole way of life to them," he said.
He suggested the best way forward if the Fort could not be maintained would be to “build another complex somewhere to accommodate our sports, and then we can move out”, but added that “moving out prior to that would be disastrous.”
Ray Molloy, founder of Tai Chi Qigong Jersey, expressed his frustration at the idea of sports being removed from the Fort, feeling moving clubs out would be a mistake that squanders opportunity.
Pictured: Ray Molloy, who runs Tai Chi Qigong Jersey, feels that getting rid of the sport would be a massive mistake, and the current facilities should be invested in.
“If they close the Fort for sports, it’ll be the biggest crime Jersey’s ever committed," he told Express.
Having seen championships come to the Fort since 2000, with competitors from over 15 countries attending, Ray reminisced about how the site was once revered by visitors.
Explaining why he doesn’t want to see a return to school and parish halls for sports, he said that the ability to have their own facilities led to greater security and safety.
“When we used to train in schools there were more accidents. Whereas at the Fort, we’ve got proper mats – with the mats down, there’s less chance of accidents,” he said.
He further voiced his concerns about potential attempts to move the Fort’s sporting clubs to Les Quennevais' facilities, as “they’re not big enough.”
Pictured: The facilities needed for a club like Regent Gymnastics when operating normally would need to be large-scale.
He added that he didn’t see where else had the same direct parking the Fort had either.
Talking about why the Government should put its investment into sports facilities at the Fort, he said of its potential: “Spend money on it and the people will come back...it could be the sports centre of the world.”
The Government has previously said that sports facilities would be unlikely to feature in future plans for the Fort, though the Economic and International Affairs Scrutiny Panel expressed their fears in December that there is still “a high degree of uncertainty over the future of the project” as it would need full political backing.
In October, Express revealed that ProduceUK Ltd - a company that has brought 'Spanish Steps', a giant interactive boombox, an LED light Maze and a 'Slideatron' to cities across the UK - had been handed a £28,000 contract to inject life into Fort Regent ahead of a bigger redevelopment.
Meanwhile, In Partnership With Ltd was awarded a contract of £215,000 to advise on plans for the long-term, involving up to £26m investment from Government.
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