AN OLYMPIC gold medal for a BMX rider who trained in Stroud has brought fresh attention to Rush Skatepark, but it’s come too late to save the facility, say the skatepark’s owners.
Two BMX riders – Charlotte Worthington and Declan Brooks – who both trained at Rush, won Olympic medals for Great Britain.
Charlotte Worthington won gold in the first Olympic women’s BMX freestyle competition in Tokyo on August 1, before Declan Brooks followed up with bronze in the men’s event moments later.
On Sunday, The Observer newspaper ran a piece highlighting the importance of the facility at Brimscombe, and the danger to future medal hopes presented by its closure.
But the Olympic wins, although providing high profile examples of Rush’s significance within the international skatepark community, are “too late for Rush as a business”, owners Jerry and Michelle Norman have said.
The skatepark, one of Europe’s biggest indoor facilities located in Brimscombe Port, is to close at the end of this month.
Its tenancy ends as Stroud District Council move on plans for the development of the port, which were drawn up before their contract with Rush was signed.
In a post on social media, the Normans said: “Unfortunately this is no longer about saving Rush – it’s about the facility that the skating community will lose.
“It’s no longer about Jerry and I – it’s about the riders and parents.
“We really appreciate the support we are being given, but it’s too late for Rush as a business – with only three weeks to go redundancy letters have been issued and paperwork is in place for closure.
“As tragic as the loss is to us, the loss to the community is greater, and has the potential to impact the careers of athletes that may not know they are athletes yet.
“Following the story of the Olympic BMX team, many of them had no idea that they would be competing in the Olympics this time four years ago.
“The same could be said for riders currently using Rush as a training facility and the loss of a facility like Rush will remove any hope of a freestyle BMX or skateboarding Olympian coming from Gloucestershire.
“This is what we must make Stroud District Council aware of.”
Speaking to the Observer, Jerry said that there are very few skateparks with ramps approaching an Olympic standard, and with the closure of Rush talented youngsters will struggle to train regularly “and some may have to give up on their dreams. It’s a real tragedy.”
He added that young people could only safely develop their skills and gain the confidence to attempt the kind of awe-inspiring tricks that helped Worthington win a gold medal and Brooks a bronze medal, in a friendly, supportive skatepark like Rush, with coaches on site and ramps up to four metres (13ft) high.
PE specialist and father of two Tim Knibbs said that Rush is not only vital as a training site for current and future Olympians, but is also crucial in fighting the obesity crisis amongst young people.
He said: “As a father of two young girls aged two and six, I am devastated that Rush Skatepark is closing at the end of this month.
“Both were gripped by Charlotte Worthingtons incredible gold medal run at the Olympics.
“Rush is a place that inspires young people to do great things.
“I also work in primary schools as a PE specialist and recognise the importance of such facilities with the obesity crisis amongst young people.
“We have this incredible facility on our doorstep and it is going to be lost.
“I know the wider reasons behind the Brimscombe port redevelopment, but surely Stroud District Council could do more?”
Jerry and Michelle, who opened the skatepark in 2013, said they will cease trading on August 29.
Stroud District Council Leader Doina Cornell said: “Since 2004 we have been working with the local community on a vision and plan to restore the former inland port, which was infilled in the 1930s. As part of the project, we’ll have to remove end of life warehouses, so we’re supporting the current tenants to move. Our vision is about putting the heart back into Brimscombe, with a port basin, reopened canal, community, employment and visitor facilities, and new zero carbon housing – of which 30% will be affordable. We’re working to create a vibrant and thriving community, with improvements to biodiversity with new habitats for wildlife and new spaces for local residents to travel by foot or cycle – linking to the canal restoration and the wider national inland waterway network. We’ve secured significant funding to help deliver this vision.
“We are in the process of seeking a development partner and need to clear the site and enable the essential infrastructure works to happen. It would be impossible to start these essential works with tenants still in situ.
“When we leased the site to RUSH Skatepark, everybody knew that their stay could only be temporary. The duration of the tenancy was agreed and all parties were clear on the timeframe.
“We extended the tenancy on a number of occasions and we have also been working hard with RUSH to help them find a new home. This included the offer of land free-of-charge at the Council-owned Stratford Park for a purpose-built facility, subject to planning permission and funding, although RUSH was not able to raise the initial funding for the studies needed.
“We understand the importance of such a facility for everyone, particularly young people in our district which is why we have been actively helping RUSH try to relocate. We remain committed to this search and continue to work with both RUSH and Active Gloucestershire, to try and find new premises.
“We have been privileged to see that some of Team GB’s BMX riders have ridden at RUSH and have achieved success which we can all be proud of. This and its wider appeal can only help in the quest to find a new home.”