College annexes town sports club
A college is improving links with its local community by taking over a major sporting facility. Weymouth Sports Club in Dorset will be used by the nearby college to boost its sports training activities, while still remaining open to the public.
Weymouth College says the move will boost numbers at the sports club, which has lacked funds for capital investment, as well as improving the facilities for training its students.
Coming under the college's control will mean a modernisation programme for the club's 1960s buildings. They will be included in the overhaul which is taking place nationally to upgrade the further education estate.
The club is situated on a site on the edge of town owned by the local council and has been run by a non-profit making committee. Weymouth College will take on a 28-year lease on October 1. Existing activities - including hosting competitions and events for other local sports clubs - will continue.
Ben Heath, the college's sports development officer, said: "We have a secondary school and a primary school next door, so we will be able to involve all age groups in the club and take them right the way through.
"The sports club will be part of the college, but it will also be part of the community. We will improve the facilities and modernise the place. We hope, with marketing and the support of the college, to attract more people."
A shuttle bus service will bring students from the college campus, a mile from the club.
The new facilities will come under the umbrella of the college's sports academy for 16- to 19-year-olds, which offers professional coaching, kit, fitness testing, personal training and a Level 2 (GCSE-equivalent) fitness and exercise qualification. The academy has links with several sports organisations, including Weymouth football club, the All England Netball Association, and Bath rugby club in neighbouring Somerset. The sports club includes full and five-a-side football, netball and basketball.
Like many colleges, Weymouth is hoping to cash in on the national obsession with sport in the run-up to the 2012 Olympics. The town will host many of the Games' sailing events.
Kelly Bush, the college's sports programme manager, says the plans for the sports centre fit into this strategy.
"Olympic fever has already gripped Weymouth, and if we are to preserve this interest for future generations, we will need sporting facilities of an international standard," she said.
The college's plans include a new athletics circuit, a grandstand, improving the existing running tracks and modernising the changing rooms. The scheme will attract funding from Sport England and the Football Association.
Paul Lonsdale, the deputy principal, said: "We are extremely excited about the possibilities for our students and the Weymouth community as a whole."