Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre’s ‘invaluable’ indoor athletics facility must be retained, a youth sports coach has said.
Dave Ingram, who competes and coaches in the pole vault as well as coaching youngsters at the leisure centre, has trained at the facility for more than 20 years.
The Broadbridge Heath Joint User Group (JUG) is fighting for retention of the ‘tube’ - an indoor facility at the leisure centre that includes a 60m straight, indoor pole vault, long jump and high jump areas.
Dave coaches around 15o children aged between five and 12 each week.
He said: “In the winter we are exclusively indoors. We can’t have under-tens in the freezing cold so it is absolutely invaluable.
“Without the indoor facility I am pretty certain they would all find different things to do - I imagine they would find other pursuits.”
The JUG has emphasised the need for a multi-purpose facility to replace the tube when the leisure centre is redeveloped.
Dave said failure to do so would have a huge impact on regional pole vaulting.
He said: “For pole vaulting, it is the only facility in this part of the country. I believe the nearest place is Sutton - some of our athletes come from Brighton and from there it is even further to get up to Sutton.
“If it is pouring down with rain or very cold it is very dangerous to do it anywhere other than indoors.
“Not everyone in the world does pole vaulting so it is not like there are thousands, but every pole vaulter I have ever known over 22 years trains in the winter indoors. “
From a personal point of view, Dave said he and the athletes he works with would all have to give up training and competing if the facility was not retained.
He added: “I am still competing but it would be the end of what I do, the end of my training.
“My group wouldn’t be able to continue because I wouldn’t coach them outside in anything but the warmest of weather.
“For the last 20 years this centre has been a hub for all athletes, and I really hope something can be done.”
Commonwealth Games bronze medalist Jade Lally works and trains at the leisure centre.
Last month, the discus star called for the retention of indoor athletics facilities.
Jade said: “I want to thank Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre for being so supportive and giving me so much time off to train and compete.
“Also it is really important for people to know we are still fighting to have our new site include an indoor training facility to replace the tube we are losing at our new venue.
“Lots of athletes, including myself, rely on training indoors during the winter. It is impossible to train for the technical events in the snow and rain.”
Paul Kornycky, deputy chairman of the JUG, added: “As a regular user of the indoor athletics facilities at the leisure centre, Jade is a strong supporter of our campaign to retain them, as part of a new multi-purpose second sports hall.
“Surely HDC must now acknowledge the importance of proper re-provision of such facilities to enable our local athletes to succeed.”
The council committed to building a smaller replacement centre when it demolishes the current one in June 2012 after months of campaigning by leisure centre users.