Coach hits out as Newport leisure axe threatens Underwood gym club
CONCERNED: Sue Griffiths, the head coach of Twist ‘n’ Flip Gymnastics and members of her team at Underwood Leisure Centre
THE head coach of a girl’s gymnastics group says it could lose its home if a proposal to shut a leisure centre is carried out.
Sue Griffiths of Twist ‘n’ Flip Gymnastics based at Underwood Leisure Centre said the closure would be a big blow to her club just three years after it had to move from another closed leisure centre.
She fears some of the clubs members in the East Newport estate could be cut off from gymnastics altogether.
But Newport council, which is considering the closure as part of its draft budget consultation for 2013/14, says Underwood is the least used of all its leisure centres.
Ms Griffiths said: “What would we do? I really don’t know. We’re not in a position to rent permanent premises.”
Her club, which has 65 members aged 4 to 15, used to use Lliswerry Leisure Centre but moved to Underwood when that shut in 2009.
She says it has taken the club three years to come back to strength.
Although the group also runs a class at Llanwern High School, she couldn’t run a full gym club from there as the specialist equipment the group uses based is at Underwood.
“All other leisure centres already have gymnastic clubs training in them, and the council moved us up to Underwood as that was the only facility which didn’t have a club,” she said.
Although there are other gym groups in the city, Ms Griffiths said she fears those of her members who are from the Underwood estate could find it difficult to reach them.
“Some of our children have no access to transport, so if the centre shuts then they will no longer be able to continue with gymnastics,” Ms Griffiths said. “We really don’t want to go through another closure,” she added.
In the last year the club organised and hosted two tumbling championships at Underwood, and is currently organising another competition for April.
A Newport council spokeswoman said considerable effort has been put into keeping the ‘ageing’ leisure centre open for a number of years. It is the least used of all the council’s leisure centres, she said.
“Sadly, at a time when the council is facing such huge financial challenges, the priorities have to be aimed at those services which protect and support older people, the vulnerable in our communities and children,” the spokeswoman said.
“If the council cannot find the necessary savings of £8 million, it could put some of these vitally important services at risk.”
Mum vows to fight ‘tooth and nail’
SIX-YEAR-OLD Olivia Evans was inspired by the 2012 Olympics to join Twist ‘n’ Flip Gymnastics.
But now her mum Stacey Flook, 26, from Lliswerry, in Newport, said the closure will be fought “tooth and nail”.
She said her daughter had been hoping to take part in competitions and has made lots of friends through the group, which Ms Flook pays £40 a month for Olivia to take part in.
“She joined because she watched the Olympics and really wanted to get into it,” Ms Flook said.
“It would be disappointing if it closed. She loves going up there to train. It means the family would be broken up.”
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