Phoenix Gym 'bowled over' by 'substantial' donation that could save it from closing

Adrian Williams

Adrian Williams

The Phoenix Gymnastics Club is ‘bowled over’ that it may be saved from closure by an anonymous benefactor.

The 40-year-old Water Oakley club, which provides national-level training and activities for children of all ages and enjoyed a pre-COVID footfall of more than 1,000, was on the verge of closure due to a funding gap.

The site was looking to move locations but had not been able to secure a loan due to ‘restrictive planning conditions’ for its planned new purpose-built facility in Fifield.

Since then an anonymous benefactor has stepped in to cover the financial gap, meaning the Phoenix may soar again. However, the race is now on to find a temporary site.

Its current site is on the verge of sale and redevelopment and The Phoenix must vacate the premises by June 5. This is a slight extension – the original date was the beginning of May.

The funding is a last-minute lifeline for the club, though they must still find 10,000sqft of alternative accommodation while the new gym is being built in Fifield.

The club is targeting empty warehouse and retail space, available for up to nine months. Ideally it is looking for a six-metre ceiling height but all options are being considered.

It is appealing to local landlords that may have suitable facilities sitting empty in the short term.

A charitable, short-term intervention would ‘guarantee the survival of the club for the next 100 years’, the Phoenix has said.

Lynn Bushell, Phoenix centre director said: “We’re absolutely bowled over that someone has stepped forward with a substantial and serious offer of help that would allow us to build our new facility in Fifield.

“The generosity and enthusiasm of the offer is truly astounding and gives us real hope that we can yet realise our dream.”

Alisdair Thornton, chair of trustees said: “Our overwhelming problem now is finding an alternative site to see us through till the facility is built.

“We have staff with mortgages to pay and gymnasts who need to train, and if we cannot keep the charity going in the short term to meet those needs, we will lose both.

“If we lose our staff and gymnasts we cannot embark on such an expensive capital project on nothing more than the hope that they will return in the future.

“We are in talks with the council over the soon-to-be-vacated SportsAble building but we are just one of many interested parties – and the building, as it stands, is unsuitable for a large proportion of our needs.”

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