Ponds Forge May Reopen To The Public Before April 2021 Following Vocal Campaign

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Sheffield's Ponds Forge - Photo Courtesy: Josh Dobson

Ponds Forge may reopen to the public before April 2021 following a vocal campaign which included the likes of Becky Adlington, Max Litchfield and Leon Taylor.

It was announced last month that the pool in Sheffield, northern England, would remain closed for the foreseeable future before a reopening date of April 2021 was offered as the ‘best-case scenario’ because of the cost.

The city council had  given Sheffield City Trust £15 million to reopen most of its facilities across the city last month but said a further £1.5million would be needed for Ponds Forge to open its doors which was prohibitive.
Clubs based at the pool – the training base of City of Sheffield swimming and diving and Sheffield City among others – warned they would not survive until then and it prompted an impassioned response across social media.
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Photo Courtesy: British Swimming

Now Sheffield Council has stated that it intends to reopen the facility – which also includes a leisure pool and multi-purpose sports hall – although it has not given an update as to when that may be.

A formal decision will be made during a cabinet meeting on September 23 while according to the Sheffield Star, a report will be published next week after council officers will work on the financial details.

Councillor Mary Lea, cabinet member for culture, parks and leisure, told the scrutiny meeting the council was aiming to reopen the pool at the beginning of October.

She said:

“I am pleased that these plans will be brought to cabinet later this month.

“We know how important Ponds Forge is to the city’s sporting excellence and our wider communities and the only barrier to having it re-open has been the financial position caused by the pandemic and continued restrictions on gatherings.

“We are facing a constantly evolving situation in dealing with re-opening all of our services and facilities.

“We will be working with local groups that have come forward as discussions have already been ongoing between them and Sheffield International Venues around exactly how much support is needed.

“However, we feel that if the venue is to be opened it is only right that it should be available for all of the public as well as supporting some of our sports clubs and elite athletes.”

A reminder of the Swimming World article published on 13 August 2020

Adlington Bemoans “Sad” News Ponds Forge Will Remain Closed For The Foreseeable Future

Double Olympic champion Becky Adlington has described as “awful” the news that Ponds Forge will remain closed indefinitely.

Max Litchfield, the double European IM medallist who trained there between leaving Doncaster DARTES and moving to Loughborough, said it was “devastating news”.

So too Leon Taylor, who was based there for several years, winning 10m synchro silver with Pete Waterfield at Athens 2004.

Jo JacksonLiam Tancock and Karoly Guttler are among swimmers to have set world records at the pool in Sheffield, Yorkshire, which has also played host to Olympic and world trials, the City of Sheffield and Sheffield City clubs, diving competitions encompassing elite to grassroots and numerous learn-to-swim and community programmes.

Masters clubs. County championships. Aquarobics. Age groups. Young and old. The venue has hosted them all.

It staged the 1993 European Championships where 15-year-old Franziska van Almsick won seven medals – six of them gold – and Kristina Egerszegi mesmerised en-route to four titles, all in individual events.

Guttler lowered the 100m breaststroke world record to 1:00.95 while Alex Popov won four golds, including the 50 and 100 free double.

Sprint freestyle specialist Mark Foster was among five men to set global standards at the continental short-course showpiece in 1998, with 21.31 in the 50 free.

Two world records were set by women including Sandra Volker‘s 27.27 in the 50 back.

Tancock stopped the clock at 24.47 in the 50 back at the 2008 Olympic trials a year before Jackson lowered Federica Pellegrini’s 400 free standard to 4:00.66.

Liam Tancock: Photo Courtesy: Kyle Terada – USA Today Sports

It stands minutes away from the Wybourn estate where British head coach and guide to Adlington, Bill Furniss grew up.

It is impossible to mention everything to which the pool bore witness. Dreams realised and dashed, the highs and lows of sport, the momentary shudder of the cold water after diving in. The heat in the stands.

But on Wednesday it was announced that the venue would remain closed for the foreseeable future with 300 jobs at risk across the Sheffield City Trust which manages 13 fitness and leisure venues across the city region.

Adlington, who qualified there for her first Olympics in 2008 before going on to win double gold in Beijing, posted on social media:

“This is so sad!!!! I have a lifetime of memories from that pool. Awful for all the athletes and staff that train there. It’s such a huge part of the swimming community.”

Litchfield, who trained there as did younger brother Joe while the pair were at Sheffield Hallam University, added:

Jane Nickerson, CEO of Swim England, released a statement which read:

“The announcement that the Ponds Forge International Sports Centre is to remain shut indefinitely is a bitter blow to so many.

“We are aware there were significant issues with the venue and the pandemic has exacerbated these.

“It’s devastating for the swimming, diving and water polo clubs based there, for the staff who work there, for the generation of youngsters who would have learned how to swim there – and for the thousands who have enjoyed taking part in our national events and other major international competitions over the years.

“For our diving community, the situation looks frustratingly dire.

“Ponds Forge is one of a very small number of bespoke diving facilities in England and was home to our National Junior Diving Championships and we are now looking to re-home the Sheffield vibrant diving community as well as our water polo and swimming clubs.”

Swim England

Photo Courtesy: Swim England

She added:

“It’s not the only diving venue to remain closed though. Only eight of our 35 affiliated diving clubs currently have access to the water.

“Statistics such as this make for depressing reading and will leave many fearful about the future of our sports – but we’re continuing to campaign for emergency funding for this vital sector.

“We fought hard publicly on our campaign to #OpenOurPools and #SaveLeisure.

“Since then we have been continuing to work hard behind the scenes and remain vigorous in our lobbying of the Government to help out our struggling facilities where the need for financial support is needed more urgently than ever.

“Some pools have reopened their doors since they were given the green light to do so by the Government on Saturday 25 July.

“However, a large majority of local authority owned facilities will still remain closed at the beginning of September and beyond.

“This sector provides a much needed social benefit service to many communities as well as providing the opportunity for many to realise their aquatic sporting dreams.”

 


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