Sports club members claim they were ‘forced out’ of Great Yarmouth Drill Hall
A POPULAR Great Yarmouth sports club has moved to a new venue after its members claimed they were 'pushed out' of their home of more than 20 years.
Players from Sports Club 88 said they had made the 'very difficult decision' to relocate from their long-established base at the Drill Hall to the Marina Centre, after falling out with the new owners of the York Road venue.
Seachange Arts took over the building in February and since then has begun to introduce more art based activities at the site, including establishing a circus school.
And despite assurances from the charity that sports clubs, which traditionally meet at the hall, would be accommodated as much as possible Club 88 members found arts activities were clashing more and more with their twice-weekly meetings, making them 'untenable'.
Ann Keable, Club 88 treasurer, said: 'I think it's been on the cards ever since they came. We didn't want to leave. A lot of people have voted to move to the Marina Centre, but a lot of them are saying we don't really have a choice.'
But Seachange, which has been charged with promoting and developing arts in the borough, has hit back at the claims and said staff had been 'up front' with 88 members and warned them they would not be able to use the hall twice a week, all year round.
Club 88 runs badminton, short tennis and table tennis sessions twice a week for residents aged over 50 and has up 100 players attending its sessions.
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Mrs Keable said she had been told there was going to be a 'few disruptions' to the hall's timetable when Seachange took over but felt this had not been the case.
She said: 'Between April and September we should have had 40 sessions and out of that there were 13 that weren't available, which is quite a high proportion.'
Mrs Keable said 88 members were not against Seachange and they were very grateful to the Marina Centre for accommodating them, but they were upset to leave the Drill Hall.
'It's a great shame that it's come to this, we feel sad and we feel we have been pushed out,' she added.
But Joe Mackintosh, Seachange chief executive, thought the move was the right thing for members to do and said none of the other sports teams had a problem with the timetable changes.
He said: 'We haven't forced them out. They have made their decision to go and I think it's the right one because they will get that regular availability they want, because the Marina Centre is a dedicated locally funded community sports facility.
"I'm sorry they feel aggrieved.'
Mr Mackintosh said Seachange wanted the Drill Hall to have a mixed use, including sports, but it was the charity's 'mission' to develop the arts and make the venue financially viable by offering it as a place to hire for exhibitions, as well as the setting for regular sessions such as the weekly circus school.
'We said all along there would have to be give and take as we brought in these other things and there has been no difference as to how that has translated,' he added. 'We're a charity, we're here for the good of Great Yarmouth, to make things happen.
'I know my team are very sensitive to people and done their level best to keep all the clubs happy.'
? Sports Club 88 has spaces for new members. Anyone interested can join in the sessions at the Marina Club from 9.30am - 11.30am on Wednesday and Thursdays.