SENIOR national sports representatives came to Swindon yesterday to visit two of the town’s most successful sport and leisure projects.
North Swindon MP Justin Tomlinson hosted the keynote visit to showcase the Esprit Centre, in Stratton, and
Highworth Rec, which have both gained national recognition.
The group, led by Martin Key, of the Sport and Recreation Alliance, was also joined by representatives from the England and Wales Cricket Board, England Squash and Racketball, British Gymnastics,
Bowls England and Badminton England.
Mr Tomlinson, who is the chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on leisure, was delighted to hold the event to show how well Esprit and Swindon Council had worked together to identify the
former Headlands School site as their new home, with Olympic-standard facilities.
He said: “This just shows that handing a community facility back to the community by the council can really work.
“It doesn’t cost the tax payer anything but thousands of people a week are benefiting from it, which is brilliant.
“Swindon can be exceptionally proud of its huge success in sport and leisure.
“These two facilities and the way all the partners have come together are beacons of success and I am delighted that they’ve received the national recognition they so richly deserve.”
Esprit, in Headlands Grove, is also home to the Kirsty Farrow Dance Academy and Leadership Martial Arts.
The centre has been used as a test bed for UK Gymnastics in the run-up London 2012, with gymnasts from Esprit taking part in national competitions and coming home with medals.
One of its rhythmic gymnasts is Jade Faulkner, who will compete in a team at the Olympics in London 2012.
Mark Hows, the chairman of Esprit Gymnastics, said the new facilities at Headlands have helped gymnasts grow in their ability.
“I don’t think you can put a price on the Olympics and getting local people involved,” he said. “Jade has been training with us since she was four and to get into the Olympic team is great for us
and great for Swindon.
“We’ve never had anyone with skills at that level, but within a year of us having this new facility, we have Jade off to the Olympics.”
Katie Irwin, the area manager for south west for British Gymnastics, said: “There are really very few facilities of this size in other towns like Swindon, it is very unique to the town.
“I think with Jade’s success it can only be a fantastic help to everything she is involved in and it will just encourage others to get involved in the sport.”
Also part of yesterday’s visit was the Highworth Rec which has been a big local success thanks to a partnership between the local community and Swindon Council.
The improved facilities are now used by increasing numbers of people.