A COACH at a hugely-successful gymnastics club said he will take a “huge gamble” on Monday when the amateur club takes over the running of a council leisure centre.
Karl Wharton spearheaded a successful bid by the Deerness Valley Gymnastics Club to take over the leisure centre where the club is based at Ushaw Moor, Durham, after council bosses said they could no longer afford to maintain it.
Over the past 20 years, Deerness Valley has become one of Britain’s top gymnastics clubs in acrobatics and tumbling, with over 60 international gymnasts winning more than 50 World and European medals. The club includes three World and four European Champions in its roll of honour.
But the club’s future looked uncertain when Durham County Council announced plans to close its headquarters and five other leisure centres as part of cost-cutting measures.
Now the club will take over the centre after a bid by Karl with the support of 150 parents, to save the gymnastics club and take on running a new gymnastics centre on the site. Karl added: “It is a huge gamble but we are now a registered charity with a huge groundswell of support. Parents of gymnasts who work as electricians, decorators, you name it, have all volunteered to do their bit. We have 150 volunteers which is amazing.”
The club has been the subject of some criticism locally because the leisure centre will no longer be open for five-a-side football, badminton or squash, but Karl said: “We cannot afford to pay staff. We are run by volunteers. So the only activities we can run are gymnastics-related. However, we want to extend a welcome to anybody from toddlers to pensioners who would like to come along to try out some gymnastic activities.
“We will be welcoming anyone who wants to take part in some basic gymnastics, whether it be warm up exercises for older people or fun sessions for toddlers.
I can understand the disappointment of local people who used the centre for other sporting activities but what we have achieved so far is surely better than having the building bulldozed to the ground, which would have been the alternative.”
Karl set up the club in 1989 when he was head of PE at neighbouring Deerness Valley Comprehensive School. He is now a senior lecturer on the Department of Sport Development at Northumbria University.