Hundreds of volunteers have begun an ambitious clean–up of a Sheffield leisure centre after it was handed to the community.
Sheffield Council shut Stocksbridge Leisure Centre in April as part of a £50 million programme of cuts – leading to protests and a 15,000–signature petition.
The authority agreed to hand the centre over to community group 4SLC in June, which is now working tirelessly to restore the building before it reopens to the public next month.
Fay Howard, of 4SLC, said: “The Big Clean Up, as it has been dubbed, is now well and truly under way.
“We’ve had hundreds of people signing up to volunteer their time in the next five weeks.”
And despite the mammoth task ahead, Fay said the leisure centre was in good shape: “We were pleasantly surprised at the state of things.
“The structure of the building really is sound and the work that’s to be done is all entirely cosmetic.
“It’s like when you buy an old-banger house and you spend time making it beautiful again and putting your own stamp on it.
“We’ve got walls being painted in blues and greens – the 4SLC colours – carpets being cleaned and drains being cleared.
“Everything is generally getting tidied up and it’s certainly starting to smell better – we had 60 volunteers alone show up on Saturday which was great.”
4SLC, which will manage the newly–renamed Stocksbridge Community Leisure Centre when it reopens at the end of September, has also confirmed plans to go ahead with a detailed pool survey, so they can create a community fund for repair of the pool.
Fay said: “This requires a significant investment from us and hopefully shows everyone we are exploring every avenue to try and get the pool up and running. That will be our next big challenge, raising the funds to get the pool open and maintain it.”
The centre, on Moorland Drive, will initially be run by volunteers.
Fay said: “The community fought for this place and the community will run it.
“There’s such a great atmosphere here right now, it’s all hands on deck and people are showing up with baking and tea and coffee for everybody, it’s lovely.”
Fay said the leisure centre was important to the people of the town.
She said: “I think, historically, Stocksbridge is a community that has always felt quite remote, slightly outside of everywhere else nearby, so we’re a tight group.
“The leisure centre was built in the early 1970s and a lot of people from Stocksbridge donated money to get the place up and running, so I think there’s always been this sense of ownership with the building.
“Now that really is the case.”
Anyone interested in volunteering at the leisure centre should pop in and speak to somebody between 10am and 5pm Monday to Saturday.
Fay said: “Even if you only have a couple of hours to spares please get in touch.
“It is going to take a massive effort to get the centre operational again and make it a facility that the community deserves and can be proud of.”