New £15m sports village leaves behind an impressive legacy

Indoor pool staff on their final shift.
Indoor pool staff on their final shift.

The new £15m Scarborough Sports Village is up and running, but many people will look back with fondness at the old indoor pool and Filey Road sports centre that it has replaced, reports Mike Tyas.

With a turn of a bunch of keys, an era in the history of Scarborough sport and leisure drew to a close.

The removal van is packed and ready to go as Filey Road Sports Centre stands empty.

The removal van is packed and ready to go as Filey Road Sports Centre stands empty.

The doors were locked for the final time at Filey Road Sports Centre and Scarborough’s Indoor Swimming Pool, ahead of the much-anticipated opening of the Sports Village at Weaponness.

And, while the new facility holds in its hands the hopes of a bright future for health and fitness in the town, the role of both now closed centres in the story of sports provision, and fun in Scarborough, will not be forgotten.

Indeed, the legacy of both will live on.

The swimming pool has played a major part in the life of the town, according to Sam Greetham, head coach and chairman of Scarborough Swimming Club.

Scarborough Swimming Club head coach Sam Greetham takes his final coaching session.

Scarborough Swimming Club head coach Sam Greetham takes his final coaching session.

Sam, who has spent a large part of his adult life inside its four walls on top of the hill at Ryndle Crescent, said: “The indoor pool more than served its purpose. In its time it put a marker in the sand.

“It took Scarborough from just having an outdoor pool on the North Bay to a place where we had an indoor facility.”

The change was significant. The outdoor pool was used during the summer but come the autumn and the colder days, the nearest swimmers got to entering the water was watching the tides roll in on the North Bay.

That’s why so many Scarborians laced up their walking boots and took to the roads up to Whitby and back in a series of sponsored walks to convince the old borough council that there really was a demand for swimming indoors. It worked, a pool was built and countless thousands have since benefitted from the foresight of those early supporters.

Indoor pool duty manager James Gibson, left, and Jon Cheshire lock up for the final time.

Indoor pool duty manager James Gibson, left, and Jon Cheshire lock up for the final time.

There have been elite swimmers from the town. Sam pointed to the likes of Paul Hargreaves, Ross Glegg and Gareth Mills from his own club who began their journeys to top level competition under his tutelage at the pool. Gareth, for instance, went on to win silver at the Commonwealth Games.

Yet more importantly than the glint of medals are the generations of people who have gained confidence and competency in the water by attending swimming lessons run by both Scarborough and the Kingfishers swimming clubs, who have shared the pool over the years.

Sam said: “There are thousands of people in Scarborough who have an association with water who have come through the mechanism of teaching by Scarborough Swimming Club at the indoor pool.

“We built a very good reputation over the years for teaching swimming – and I must say Kingfishers have done a very good job too.”

Sam then wandered down memory lane as he reflected on the 43-years of the pool, one of the highlights being the time Sharron Davies and Adrian Moorhouse competed in the British short course championships.

The year was the boiling hot summer of 1976. Sam said: “The pool had only been open a couple of years – it was quite an honour for the Scarborough pool and a milestone in the sport’s history as it was the first metricated championship in the UK.

“There were quite a few British records set at those championships.”

Both Davies and Moorhouse went on to enjoy glittering careers, the later pinnacling with an Olympic gold in 1988. The pair received MBEs for their service to the sport and now work extensively in the media.

Jon Cheshire is in his second spell as Kingfishers Swimming Club head coach, having himself been taught to swim at the pool as an eight-year-old by then manager Ken Barton before later working under Sam Greetham during 20 years with Scarborough Swimming Club.

“I’m sad to see the pool close,” he said. “It has been a part of my life and for the lives of many in our town for its duration. The place holds a lot of happy memories for swimmers and families from the borough but it’s more than 40 years old now.

“We are fortunate now that on the other side of Scarborough we have got this absolutely fantastic brand new facility, a brand new gym, football pitch and a fantastic eight-lane, 25m pool.

“To have this new pool in the new Sports Village is a fantastic opportunity to take Scarborough swimming as well as Scarborough sport in general moving forward.”

Those sentiments were echoed by Martin Russell, the area fitness manager of Leisure Village operators Everyone Active, who has had a hectic six weeks planning and preparing for the big move from his previous base on Filey Road.

He said: “I have a mixture of emotions at leaving the sports centre. I worked there for 17 years and have great memories of the place and the people who used it.

“It certainly played a big part in increasing the health and wellbeing of Scarborough residents. That is what we are hoping our new facility will do as well.”

One couple who know Martin well and were regular users of the old sport centre are husband and wife gym-goers, Alan and Jan Jones of East Ayton.