Bognor boxing gym will mark 100th birthday in new home thanks to community support
A boxing gym in Bognor Regis, which had its future cast into doubt following the first coronavirus lockdown, has secured a new home.
Southern Counties club, Bognor Regis ABC, was unable to return to its premises of eight years last July because its landlord needed to rent out the space at full cost, 'to recoup losses due to Covid-19 closures'.
Despite 'standing temporarily homeless', the 98-year-old club can now 'look forward to marking its centenary' thanks to support from the local community.
The club had already been seeking to move to a more permanent home in a large space on the first floor of the Plumbase Centre in North Bersted. However, events have 'led to an acceleration in that agreement coming into force', with a ten-year lease set to be signed once lockdown ends.
This was made possible by donations from a number of local businesses and individuals.
Lead club coach, secretary and fundraiser Paul Mason said he has been overwhelmed by generosity.
He said: “It’s fantastic to see the way that so many people have come together to refuse to allow one of the oldest amateur boxing clubs in the country to die.
“It’s amazing what has happened in the last few months after there was a point where the future of the club was looking very uncertain. The community hasn’t just helped improve the club, they have saved its life.
“The rotary club say this is the biggest community project that has ever happened in Bognor and it gives us the certainty – that we have never really had – to take the club on from strength to strength. We have never had a home to call our own before.
“We can have more sessions, more classes and bigger groups coming in, after Covid, because there will be that much more space available. Having the ongoing support to make it a family club – everyone has said they want to carry on helping out – means so much.”
Among the people to be thanked was Plumbase manager Nigel Humphrey, who 'kindly committed' to providing new washroom furniture and new radiators to heat the facility during the winter months.
A spokesperson said: "Bognor Rotary has agreed to put forward a significant sum of money, as has Reynolds of Bognor Regis, while donations from Maverick Stars Trust and Malcolm Ridley have also been gratefully received.
"Falcon Homes, Cathedral Signs, T and E Electrical, Bradley Electrical, Covers of Bognor, Kevin Welling (plumber), Coastal Alarms, Clinton Carpets, Strongdor and Southern Recycling are among other local businesses to also pledge their support in one way or another.
"This income and manpower has not only allow the club to overcome unexpected obstacles such as loose wiring in the suspended ceiling above the 2,200 square foot room to be used, but also purchase vital equipment such as punchbags, gloves and protective head gear, as well as a first boxing ring."
Paul was 'assisted in his efforts' by long-serving Dave Larner – who has been at the club 64 years – and Alan Wise, as well as the wider coaching team.
Paul added: “For a lot of clubs they may find there is a fall-off in numbers because of coronavirus, but because of what’s been happening here, I think, if anything, it’s made our young boxers even more hungry for it when the lockdown ends.
“Like many clubs, we do our best to be an inclusive club and we don’t split up children into different groups. We may give them extra support within their group, but they are very much part of it.
“We have kids with autism, ADHD and Tourettes, but when they come through our doors, they get really involved and enjoy it. I know one of the dads got quite emotional at seeing the positive change he saw for the time that his youngster was in the boxing club.
“The lease is ready to sign, but Plumbase have, very kindly, allowed us to delay that until we can open up the gym after the lockdown and get some use out of it.
“When the government allow clubs to open again, then we hope that all the work will be finished and we will be ready to go. We’ll then look forward to having open days for those who have helped and the general public when restrictions have eased.”