Blackbridge Athletics Track was saved after a solution was found to complex land ownership issues by a brand new organisation being established to take over the facility’s management.
This story demonstrates how dedicated management by passionate people can draw in investment, grow usage and create a new offer for ‘all ability’ sportspeople with wheelchair racing and other Paralympic disciplines.
What was the problem?
Blackbridge Athletics Track, built and owned by Gloucester City Council (GCC), and used by two different athletics clubs – as well as schools and individuals – was in a poor state of management and disrepair. Floods in 2007 had worsened the situation, and parts of the facility were closed for health and safety reasons.
There were large holes in the track and equipment was in a poor state of repair. Gloucester City Council made the decision to close the track and invest in new athletics facilities on a different site as part of a major sports complex. These plans fell through in 2011 however, when they could not raise enough partnership funding for the project.
Meanwhile, a coach at one of the athletics clubs using the track decided to launch an appeal to raise money towards the planned new track. When the big plans were abandoned, there were donations of £35,000 already pledged or made, and a decision had to be made as to what to do with the money.
A meeting was arranged with a city councillor with responsibility for sports and leisure, to discuss the future for athletics in the city. What came from that meeting was a plan for rescuing Blackbridge Track.
What was the solution?
The Council had funds available from flood insurance to reinvest in sports facilities. However, there was no money for the ongoing running or management of the track. However, if the athletics clubs could take on management of the site, the Council would be willing to make some much needed repairs before handing it over. The final piece of the funding jigsaw would be the Sport England Inspired Facilities fund.
Club members began work on a business plan for running the facility, whilst GCC put in a funding application to Sport England, with the emphasis on making the site safe and secure with facilities fit for all levels of training from schools to elite sportspeople. They were awarded £100,000 in late 2011. One of the terms of the funding was for GCC to have a lease in place for at least seven years with the potential of asset transfer at some point in the future.