Vision for £400,000 table tennis centre in Thorpe St Andrew

Stuart Laws, who is hoping to have a table tennis centre built in Thorpe St Andrew. Picture: Gaving

Stuart Laws, who is hoping to have a table tennis centre built in Thorpe St Andrew. Picture: Gaving Bickerton-Jones - Credit: Archant

A city sports coach has today outlined his vision for a new £400,000 table tennis centre on the edge of the city.

Stuart Laws is hoping to build the new facility on land in Thorpe St Andrew in a bid to make Norwich a hub for the sport.

The 46-year-old, who runs several clubs in the city, has already received backing from Table Tennis England and £200,000 in private investment.

He believes the county is currently lacking facilities to help grow the sport, with most clubs forced to use school halls to play in.

But Mr Laws said a new dedicated table tennis centre would enable clubs to meet centrally and hold national-level tournaments.

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The facility would be 131ft by 65 ft in size, and would include changing rooms, a kitchen and meeting space.

It would also be large enough to accommodate up to 18 tables, have specialist sports flooring and competition lighting.

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Mr Laws had initially hoped to build it on playing fields near Pound Lane, but he was unable to secure support from Thorpe St Andrew High School.

He said: 'The next hurdle is to find a piece of land to build the centre on. With the growing population, and the loss of sporting facilities such as Pinebanks, I believe a table tennis centre would offer something for everyone.

'This project would create a huge buzz for the region, and be an amazing attraction to our lovely town, creating an ongoing legacy for the whole community.'

Last night the idea was presented to Thorpe St Andrew Town Council, which agreed to continue 'dialogue' in regard to the project.

John Fisher, deputy town mayor, said: 'It could have a lot of potential for the town. But we can't just give land away, if they want to come up with a lease, that might be something we can look at.'

Mr Laws hoped that the centre would be available for use seven days a week and would include dedicated equipment.

He said there was a growing number of casual players across the county, with hundreds also taking part in dedicated leagues.

While £200,000 has been secured from a private investor, Mr Laws said he was yet to apply for a match funding bid to Sport England.

But this would only be possible once land had been found for the centre.

He added that the facility may have to offer access to other sports groups in order to successfully bid for the money.

Table Tennis England's head of operations, Jonathan Bruck, said the organisation would be supporting Mr Laws.

He added: 'Whilst there is a thriving club network in Norfolk, the new centre would represent a step change in club provision and opportunities.

'While the focus will be on competitive table tennis, the centre will help tackle key issues which blight society today, such as obesity and inactivity.

'Table Tennis England will continue to work with and support the project with the resources available.'

Ian Grange, Active Norfolk's sport development manager, said Mr Laws would need to demonstrate there was a demand for table tennis facilities in order to receive funding from Sport England.

Table tennis facts

Table tennis, also known as ping pong, is said to be one of the most popular indoor sports in the world.

But did you know these facts about the game?

• Table tennis originated in Victorian England, where it was mostly played by the upper classes.

• Early names for the game included whiff-whaff and indoor tennis.

• The game was banned in the Soviet Union between 1930 and 1950 because it was thought to be harmful to the eyes.

• Early table tennis paddles were normally made of cork, cardboard, or wood, and covered with cloth, leather or sandpaper.

• The longest table tennis rally lasted eight hours, 40 minutes and five seconds.

• The largest table tennis tournament was achieved by 2,048 participants in Guangzhou, China, on March 31, 2013.

• The largest table tennis bat measures 8.83 ft tall. It was created by Todd Thomas from the USA.

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