Sunday 25 August 2019

New gymnastics club takes shape

The new Wexford Gymnastics Club building under construction at Ferndale.
The new Wexford Gymnastics Club building under construction at Ferndale.

By David tucker

GIANT strides are being taken in the creation of the first purpose-built premises for Wexford Gymnastics Club, arguably the most successful club of its kind in the region.

Club Secretary Emily Walsh said there had been some delays when the ESB were called in after 'wires' were discovered as the foundations were being dug, but things 'are flying now'.

She said that the project, now in its 11th week, was on track and opening was scheduled for the end of October as planned, and for the hundreds on the club's waiting list it won't be a day too soon.

'The steel structure is in place, the roof is on and we're pouring the floor this week,' said Emily.

Emily said specific and state of the art training pits for gymnasts - of which there only a handful in the country - were being created, one filled with foam blocks and the other a U-pit which helps athletes learning to do swings on the bar as well as aiding the instructors passing on their skills.

One thing the club won't be short of when the new building opens is members.

'We haven't had an enrolment this year because we have such long waiting lists,' said Emily, 'every day we have requests from people waiting to join. Three years ago we had 80 members and now we're over the 600 mark.

'Once we moved into our new club we will be able to have numerous classes on at different times and will be able to open up our waiting lists,' she said, adding that the move would take place over a weekend.

The new build, on a site next to the Ferndale Community Centre, will be the club's first purpose-built premises since it was founded almost 40 years ago.

Cleary Doyle were appointed main contractors for the club, which will fulfill a dream that goes back to the '70s when it was first established in a front garden at Clonard and which has grown incrementally, particularly over the past few years.

Wexford Gymnastics Club was established in 1978 and over the years operated from a number of local venues on a part-time rental basis.

The voluntary run club became successful quite early on and by the late 1980s its members were frequently representing Wexford on the Irish National Acrobatics Squad in which they were highly regarded.

The initial friendly international events soon turned into World and European Cups and Championships with the club's gymnasts moving up the rankings with each passing year.

In 2003 it was decided that it was impossible for the local gymnasts to progress much further on the international circuit without a permanent facility to train from.

Many applications for funding for a new club were made and declined in the coming years, but the determination to see the project through to the end never wavered.

Throughout this time the club said it received immense support and encouragement from Wexford Borough Council particularly, from Pat Collins and Carolyne Godkin, in their respective roles at the time of Town Clerk and RAPID Area Coordinator.

In September 2012 the club decided to begin renting a full-time facility partly to improve the training conditions for its current members and partly to prove that there was enough of a demand for gymnastics classes in Wexford to warrant the development of a dedicated facility.

Within a year the club's numbers had doubled and membership currently stands at over 550.

In this time the club also switched its status from voluntary to not for profit, with some of the coaches working on a part-time paid basis as well as continuing to volunteer many of their hours to accommodate the 40 classes a week which the club now provides - the number of classes is expected to surge when the new club opens.

January 2013 saw the club finally secure funding under the Sports Capital Programme through a joint application made the previous June with the then Wexford Borough Council.

The allocation of €110,000 made it possible for the club to then approach some financial institutions in the hope of securing the remaining funds for the build.

Initial attempts proved futile, but eventually 'Clann Credo', a social investment group offering finance for community growth, came to the rescue. In November 2014, loan approval for the majority of the outstanding amount was given and the club have since undertaken a number of other fundraising initiatives to add to this.

'It's all systems go,' said Emily.

Wexford People

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