Chichester will be on its way to being left an important Olympic legacy when a long-awaited project to provide the city with first-class sporting and community facilities gets under way this month.
Diggers will finally be moving on to the site of the New Park Community and Arts Centre to begin the first phase of its £1.7m transformation.
Last year the New Park Community and Arts Association decided that because of the economic situation, rather than wait until all of the money had been raised, it would divide the project into three phases and start work on the first.
On Monday the contract between the association and the company Brymor, which will be carrying out the work, officially began – to great excitement by association members.
Association chairman Michael Foyle said: “After so many years, it is really rewarding to see this development at New Park get under way.
“The association is committed to providing not only greatly-improved facilities at the centre but also to ensuring the development makes a positive contribution to the aesthetic character of this part of the city.”
Work will involve demolishing one of the current buildings and replacing it with a new facility which will include a martial arts and fitness area known as a Dojo, which will also include spectator seating as well as showers, changing and toilet facilities and a new community hall.
The current sports hall in the main building will be refurbished to provide two additional flexible multi-use community rooms.
The association said the Dojo would help it to expand its activities and allow the martial arts group there to host regional training sessions and competitions as well as devise a programme of outreach activities.
Although work will be starting imminently, the association said the focus now would be to raise the remaining £300,000 needed to complete the first phase of the project, which will also include a cafe and bar and upgrading other areas of the centre.
Mr Foyle said they were extremely grateful to everyone who had helped with the project financially, with grants from a number of organisations such as Chichester District Council, Sport England and the FG Woodger Trust.
“We are also grateful to those who have given their time and commitment to help us get to this point,” said Mr Foyle.
He said the cafe and other work would be the ‘icing on the cake’ and encouraged as many people as possible to get behind the association’s campaign to reach the fundraising target.
The centre will be open throughout the construction period, and temporary accommodation has been organised for groups who have had to move while the work takes place.
Once completed, the new facilities will also be ideal for events, parties and functions, in addition to providing a venue for arts and cultural activities. The building will provide direct access to a patio area with views across the park.
CDC’s cabinet member for leisure and wellbeing Eileen Lintill said: “We are really pleased to support the association with their plans to transform the New Park Centre.
“We have been working with the association for many years and agreed to help fund the new facility in 2007, and so it is great to see the building work start.
“It will make a big difference to the residents of the city and the many groups that will use it. Now we want to encourage the local community to help the association raise the final £300,000.”
Mr Foyle said it was hoped the first phase facilities would be up and running by next August, just before the start of the London 2012 Olympics. Further phases to bring the buildings up to modern standards would take place afterwards.