Darren Campbell backs £200k bid to get Southampton Sports Centre back on track

Daily Echo: Darren Campbell at Southampton Sports Centre Darren Campbell at Southampton Sports Centre

IT WAS supposed to be the springboard for hundreds of youngsters in Hampshire to get involved in sport.

But just over a year after the London Olympic Games, members of one of the south’s most prestigious athletics clubs have been left asking, ‘Where is the Olympic legacy?’

Southampton Athletics Club has been home to a string of Olympic athletes and has almost 700 members, yet bosses have described their facilities – which haven’t been upgraded for 30 years – as “a disgrace”.

And they say their efforts to train the next generation of athletes to succeed the likes of Todd Bennett, Kriss Akabusi and Roger Black are under threat unless something is done.

They have launched the Back the Track campaign in a bid to raise more than £200,000 to provide new facilities at the site at Southampton Sports Centre.

And they are already being backed by one gold medal-winning Olympic star.

Darren Campbell was part of the British relay team which won gold at the Athens Games in 2004, and was a close friend of club stalwart and Olympic silver medallist Todd Bennett, who died of cancer last year aged just 51.

Club bosses showed him round the dilapidated facilities this week, and afterwards he said: “I just think they are really poor – this was always my fear when the Olympic legacy was spoken about.

“Young people have been inspired and it’s a shame when you come to the club and it doesn’t have the most basic of facilities.”

The club is currently run from a portable cabin without running water or toilets, with water coming from a nearby standpipe.

Fungi are growing inside the cabin, while the club’s stand is falling to pieces with spectators regularly putting their feet through the fragile wooden floorboards.

There are no showers and its changing room facilities have been described as “non-existent” while the toilets are dilapidated and inaccessible from the track.

Club chiefs say many athletes and coaches now choose to go to Winchester and District Athletic Club instead.

Mary Axtell, one of the club’s vice-presidents, said: “The track itself is in a good position, but for a city like Southampton to have facilities like this is disgraceful.”

And Todd Bennett’s widow, Vanessa, said: “We have been campaigning for facility improvement for many years, but we now believe the situation is critical.”

“We cannot continue to exist at the present level, based at the sports centre: already some of our groups have moved their training venues and we are losing athletes to better-equipped clubs in the south.

“Very soon, we shall have to hold our home fixtures at other tracks outside the city.”

And with the city council unable to help financially, club bosses are launching a fundraising bid to Sport England and other organisations.

They have already drawn up plans to convert the existing toilet block into a new clubhouse with viewing area, toilets, changing rooms, kitchen, medical room and offices.

New stands would be built along the south side of the track while one existing portable cabin at the site would be repainted and used as scorer or announcer rooms.

In the long-term, club bosses also want a new indoor gym.

They have put an estimate of £200,000 on the figure needed.

Both the city council and Active Nation, which manages the sports centre, have said they will support the campaign.

The Back the Track campaign will be officially launched at a meeting at The View bar and bistro at the sports centre on Monday at 7.30pm.

To back the campaign, email club chairman Richie Pearson at richiepearson@ntlworld.com

Comments (11)

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8:33am Fri 7 Feb 14

Bassett Boy says...

It's probably a council plan to run the facility & the entire sports centre into the ground. Then when there are no football and cricket pitches in use and the athletic club folds they can then close it down and sell it as building land.
Even if there is a covenant on the land and they can't sell it then they wouldn't need to maintain the place any longer, just as happened with the C.S sports ground in Malmsebury Road.
Not council owned but same scenario. Wind it down, close it down, sell it on!
Covenant precluded the sale and it's now derelict land where there was once several football pitches a cricket pitch, tennis courts and bowling greens.
It's probably a council plan to run the facility & the entire sports centre into the ground. Then when there are no football and cricket pitches in use and the athletic club folds they can then close it down and sell it as building land. Even if there is a covenant on the land and they can't sell it then they wouldn't need to maintain the place any longer, just as happened with the C.S sports ground in Malmsebury Road. Not council owned but same scenario. Wind it down, close it down, sell it on! Covenant precluded the sale and it's now derelict land where there was once several football pitches a cricket pitch, tennis courts and bowling greens. Bassett Boy
  • Score: 11

8:45am Fri 7 Feb 14

Datarater says...

It's time to privatise the sports centre.
It's time to privatise the sports centre. Datarater
  • Score: -6

11:03am Fri 7 Feb 14

camerajuan says...

Speaking as a frequent user of the track, it's crazy that the changing & toilet facilities as well as the stand have been allowed to get into the state they're in. The men's toilets don't have seats! Just wooden blocks nailed to the bowl.

There's too much money going elsewhere and the recent - albeit extremely flawed - released by PHE would be a heck of a lot nicer to read if we had places which people genuinely want to spend time at.

I trained at Meadowbank in Edinburgh for 11 years and even the run down state that is in would trump Soton Track on many counts and they charge similar usage for adults - Scholarships were available for high performance athletes from outside of Edinburgh also, which Southampton Council should look into.
Speaking as a frequent user of the track, it's crazy that the changing & toilet facilities as well as the stand have been allowed to get into the state they're in. The men's toilets don't have seats! Just wooden blocks nailed to the bowl. There's too much money going elsewhere and the recent - albeit extremely flawed - released by PHE would be a heck of a lot nicer to read if we had places which people genuinely want to spend time at. I trained at Meadowbank in Edinburgh for 11 years and even the run down state that is in would trump Soton Track on many counts and they charge similar usage for adults - Scholarships were available for high performance athletes from outside of Edinburgh also, which Southampton Council should look into. camerajuan
  • Score: 4

11:38am Fri 7 Feb 14

SuperDuperCC says...

I've not trained at this track since I stopped sprinting in 2008. Even then, the condition of everything bar the track itself was far below satisfactory. Having to climb a fence in torrential rain just to go the toilet is not something you should have to do.

I would like to rejoin my old group again in the future, which would mean using the track once again (and driving from the dreaded other end of the M27!). Hopefully conditions can be drastically improved, as is befitting of both a historically important athletics club and a major city.

I look forward to hearing about the ways in which the track can be supported.
I've not trained at this track since I stopped sprinting in 2008. Even then, the condition of everything bar the track itself was far below satisfactory. Having to climb a fence in torrential rain just to go the toilet is not something you should have to do. I would like to rejoin my old group again in the future, which would mean using the track once again (and driving from the dreaded other end of the M27!). Hopefully conditions can be drastically improved, as is befitting of both a historically important athletics club and a major city. I look forward to hearing about the ways in which the track can be supported. SuperDuperCC
  • Score: 2

11:52am Fri 7 Feb 14

RealTalkSouthampton says...

I used to use this Track as a kid at school comps and running for team solent. In general their is so much potential here. But to be honest i wonder if the problem may lie with the club and maybe new blood and fresh ideas need to come in.

i only reason i say this, is that £200,000 is not allot to raise and i can think of quite a few ways this can be done. e.g. write to each school in Southampton to partake in fund raising. High profile events like corporate games. asking MD's, managers etc... form local businesses to take part in a mini track and field comp. this again would be via sponsorship. Online crowd funding. echo backed campaign.

I wouldn't mind getting involved and will email the address on the Article.
I used to use this Track as a kid at school comps and running for team solent. In general their is so much potential here. But to be honest i wonder if the problem may lie with the club and maybe new blood and fresh ideas need to come in. i only reason i say this, is that £200,000 is not allot to raise and i can think of quite a few ways this can be done. e.g. write to each school in Southampton to partake in fund raising. High profile events like corporate games. asking MD's, managers etc... form local businesses to take part in a mini track and field comp. this again would be via sponsorship. Online crowd funding. echo backed campaign. I wouldn't mind getting involved and will email the address on the Article. RealTalkSouthampton
  • Score: 3

12:22pm Fri 7 Feb 14

loosehead says...

when I was younger there was a building running parallel with the boating lake walking distance to the track I always thought this was part of the athletics set up is it not there anymore?
when I was younger there was a building running parallel with the boating lake walking distance to the track I always thought this was part of the athletics set up is it not there anymore? loosehead
  • Score: 1

12:53pm Fri 7 Feb 14

commonsense888 says...

The council should hang there head in shame that this facility is being run the way it is. So much potential if only someone had the vision to turn things around. Yes this needs money, but I'd be happy to make a donation if I knew their was a credible plan.
The council should hang there head in shame that this facility is being run the way it is. So much potential if only someone had the vision to turn things around. Yes this needs money, but I'd be happy to make a donation if I knew their was a credible plan. commonsense888
  • Score: 1

1:43pm Fri 7 Feb 14

seany1966 says...

Great memories of the Sporty .... from Its a Knock out when that was down there to home made go-cart racing , boating lake every sunday with my dad with a bit of conkering thrown in , brilliant times . Then later playing football and watching my son play hockey up there.. Now its like dog sh*t alley with the worst public toilets in the country... I agree with an earlier post on here its seems to be the council plan to run it down make an unattractive to place to come and sell it off to the lastest home builder .. instead of funding some lesbian cat owners tea club for 3 million quid ......I remembering reading a great idea in converting the boating lake area in to a skate/bmx park ,why dont they ?? ..why not have something to rival Bournemouths bowl or Southsea's Skate park .
Great memories of the Sporty .... from Its a Knock out when that was down there to home made go-cart racing , boating lake every sunday with my dad with a bit of conkering thrown in , brilliant times . Then later playing football and watching my son play hockey up there.. Now its like dog sh*t alley with the worst public toilets in the country... I agree with an earlier post on here its seems to be the council plan to run it down make an unattractive to place to come and sell it off to the lastest home builder .. instead of funding some lesbian cat owners tea club for 3 million quid ......I remembering reading a great idea in converting the boating lake area in to a skate/bmx park ,why dont they ?? ..why not have something to rival Bournemouths bowl or Southsea's Skate park . seany1966
  • Score: 1

7:51pm Fri 7 Feb 14

Bassett Boy says...

Put into perspective, the amount of money required is the equivalent to less than one weeks wages for Wayne Rooney!
No wonder this country is in the state it's in!
Put into perspective, the amount of money required is the equivalent to less than one weeks wages for Wayne Rooney! No wonder this country is in the state it's in! Bassett Boy
  • Score: 0

7:55pm Fri 7 Feb 14

Bassett Boy says...

commonsense888 wrote:
The council should hang there head in shame that this facility is being run the way it is. So much potential if only someone had the vision to turn things around. Yes this needs money, but I'd be happy to make a donation if I knew their was a credible plan.
Since when has this council come up with a 'credible plan'?
Or for that matter the last one, or the one before that, etc etc.
The people of Southampton deserve better.
[quote][p][bold]commonsense888[/bold] wrote: The council should hang there head in shame that this facility is being run the way it is. So much potential if only someone had the vision to turn things around. Yes this needs money, but I'd be happy to make a donation if I knew their was a credible plan.[/p][/quote]Since when has this council come up with a 'credible plan'? Or for that matter the last one, or the one before that, etc etc. The people of Southampton deserve better. Bassett Boy
  • Score: 1

1:44am Sat 8 Feb 14

03alpe01 says...

Thank fudge someone is finally doing something to upgrade the Sports Centre! Facilities there have been dire for years so hopefully this will improve that!
Thank fudge someone is finally doing something to upgrade the Sports Centre! Facilities there have been dire for years so hopefully this will improve that! 03alpe01
  • Score: 1

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