What was the solution?
Looking for help and support, NCGC emailed their local councillor, to explain their vision and to ask if they knew of any facilities or spaces around the area. In November 2014 they were pointed in the direction of the city council’s communities team, and the following day Sixways Community Centre – a mile away from their main venue – was identified.
Negotiations were led by the two club founders. After viewing the centre they met with the deputy leader of the council, who was impressed enough to offer staff support and draft heads of terms for an asset transfer.
From this point the rate of progress was extremely quick. With hindsight the group may have preferred a more formal approach with clear agreements, but recognise that the project might have become bogged down in bureaucracy and lost momentum. They did, however, have to submit a business plan as part of the formal process.
The council were positive about their clear vision, business-like approach, risk analysis, commitment and obvious benefits to the local and wider community, which reflected many of the council’s aims, but felt the club lacked experience in facility management.
NCGC committed to undertaking training and, over 12 months one of the directors was supported to complete the training needed to take on this role, e.g. fire requirements, food hygiene, legionella, etc. This reduced the council’s main concern and they agreed to retain this responsibility for the first year until NCGC were ready to take it on.
Ultimately, the club got what it asked for - a long lease, permission to redesign the space and the facility handed over in sound working order
In addition, the club was not incorporated, so the two club leaders formed a Community Interest Company, limited by shares, as the legal vehicle to take on the lease. This legal form is not charitable but does ensure community benefit is core to the business and also ‘locks in’ the asset so that there is no private benefit available to directors from the value of the lease.
The centre needed work to make it fit for purpose. The council agreed to complete outstanding maintenance pre-transfer at no cost to the club.
The club raised £25,000 to transform the building into a dedicated gymnastics facility, with secure doors, and permanent mats and other equipment. They redesigned the space to meet their needs with a reception/waiting/viewing area for parents and siblings, and a layout that allows users to change, warm up, do activities and leave the gym area all within a secure space.
The £25,000 was made up of a £20,000 loan and £5,000 in fundraising. They did not seek capital funding from the council or other funders as this would have slowed the process too much.
The club managed the building project even though they didn’t yet have full security on the building, but felt it was a reasonable risk to take. The two leaders/directors managed most of the work themselves but volunteers and parents were vital and got involved in painting, cleaning, fundraising, and lots more.
The amount raised by NCGC
In all, it took six months for negotiations and then three months to opening, which was in April 2015. Building work started in June 2015 and they started running sessions from July 2015. The club took a risk in investing in the premises, but due to the commitment and reassurance from the council, they felt it was a risk was worth taking.
Ultimately, the club got what they asked for – a long lease, permission to redesign the space, and the facility handed over in sound working order before the full repair lease began. Insurance and indemnity were bought through their British Gymnastics membership, which provided significant savings.
The final lease is a 30-year peppercorn, full repairing lease for the whole building and allows subletting.
What was the result?
The city council is saving revenue and maintenance costs and has brought a community centre back into use.
The club has control of their space, security of tenure and the opportunity to continue growing the business in a sustainable manner. Club membership has doubled.
The centre is very well used and footfall is now over 650 per week. They are continually looking for ways to use spare capacity, such as a home-school session. More young people and adults are active and enjoying sport. And they are particularly successful with teenagers, a difficult group to engage in sport.
For the future, the centre will provide more opportunities, with possible dance classes for parents whilst waiting for children and running themed children’s parties. There is also the possibility of sub- letting some space to related organisations. They are aiming for 1,000 users per week.
The Club has been successful in attracting local people, raising aspirations and helping to overcome negative perceptions about the area.
Through Facebook, the parent’s network and the reception area, they engage parents very effectively. They attend local community events and will be working with other sports groups to further increase participation. They have quickly built up trust and the community feel their views are being taken forward.
A number of users have taken up gymnastic coaching courses, with some parents also starting to volunteer and gain skills and confidence.
- Be positive, talk to people who have done it, learn, know your risks and manage them
- The online class management system saves hours of time - the facility couldn't be run using old, paper methods
- Social media is a vital tool for marketing and engagement but face-to-face engagement is also crucial. NCGC ran over 30 free taster sessions throughout one summer, giving local people a chance to try before signing up. Every new joiner has the opportunity to try two sessions before they enrol. As a result of feedback they have introduced new affordable sessions which will appeal to local people
- British Gymnastics provided helpful information and support. Always contact your sport governing body to see how they can help.
Find out more
Visit the Nottingham City Gymnastics Club website.