Rowing club’s new gym is really fit for purpose

The Oxford Times: Rowing club captain Caroline Greves with Ken Lester, left, a member of the club for more than 50 years, and club coach Tony Wheel, who project managed the construction of the new gym Rowing club captain Caroline Greves with Ken Lester, left, a member of the club for more than 50 years, and club coach Tony Wheel, who project managed the construction of the new gym

FITNESS fanatics have been beating the winter blues after Wallingford Rowing Club’s new £300,000 gym opened its doors.

The Oxford Times:

  • It went from this...

The club’s old asbestos-ridden 1950s shed was flattened in June to make way for a new gym building.

Developers wanted the gym to be finished by winter to beat the darker days that make it more difficult to row on the river.

And it has been in high demand by the club’s 320-odd members since it opened earlier this month, with rowers training from 6am until late at night.

The Oxford Times:

  • To this

One club member who knows how important training is to rowing success is 66-year-old Ken Lester.

He has been a member since he was 12 and became Great Britain’s youngest Olympian after competing in the 1960 Games in Rome when he was just 14 years old.

Mr Lester, who is married to former Wallingford mayor and town councillor Ros Lester, said: “The old building was a bit of a mess really, but the new gym is brilliant.

“The old shed was only one floor and had no windows, so they have some natural light now and more space. It’s a complete revelation.”

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The building work was done by Derbyshire-based contractors Pinelog, which also worked on Cholsey Village Hall.

The club’s existing gym equipment was revamped and cleaned before it was moved into its new home.

Club coach Tony Wheel said: “It is very satisfying to see it all finished, and several people from the town have commented on how nice the whole thing looks compared to the dirty old shed that was there before.

“It’s been in fairly heavy use on a pretty regular basis. It shows dedication to be in there from unearthly hours.”

The £300,000 for the project was raised through grants and loans.

The last funds were secured by a £50,000 loan from South Oxfordshire District Council, which made the rowing club the first applicant to be given money from the council’s new Community Loan Scheme.

An £83,000 grant was awarded from the council’s Community Investment fund, and £50,000 by Sport England.

Around £87,000 was also raised by community fundraising, with the remaining £30,000 raised to decorate and furnish the gym.

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