Minister throws her support behind Rowing club's dream
GLOUCESTER Rowing Club have just £100,000 left to raise to make their dream of building top-class boathouse a reality.
And Sports Minister Helen Grant was on site at the Gloucester-Sharpness canal club to lend her support as part of her tour of the city’s sporting facilities.
Touring the facilities alongside Gloucester MP Richard Graham, the Minister was impressed with the plans for the £1.5million development, a build which will provide top-class rowing and canoeing facilities and potentially produce Olympic champions of the future.
Two time Olympian and 2010 World champion Beth Rodford started rowing at the club, alongside fellow Team GB competitor Natasha Page.
The club’s link with Hartpury College has already produced several international age-group athletes and with the foundations for the elite facilities already on the ground, the future for the club is looking bright.
Grant said: “I am a fan of all sports, rowing is one of those and we have a great track record at elite level with our men and women.
“We want people to participate. This club is doing extremely well but there is a big waiting list until the new clubhouse is built. The plans look really good.
“I’m a great believer in grassroots sports. It did so much for me growing up in Carlisle, a very quiet place, but that’s where my passion for sport started.
“I was involved with little clubs like this, they are great to get people involved but they are also great in terms of talent development.
“They’ve already produced Olympic athletes and there’s no reason why they can’t produce more.”
Gloucester Rowing Club have already raised £1.4million through various fundraising initiatives as well as a £500,000 grant from Sport England.
And if the remaining funds are raised, chairman Jon Garner hopes the new boathouse will be up and running by August.
He was thrilled another Sport Minister had paid the site a visit, after previous incumbent Hugh Robertson travelled to the city in 2012.
Garner said: “Within about a week, all of the ground work will be done including the car parking, the land drainage and the access to the tow-path.
“We are aiming to have it completed in time for Gloucester Regatta over the August Bank Holiday weekend. If we do that, I shall be very happy.
“It’s fantastic the Minister is interested in the project, especially two years after the London 2012 Olympic Games.
“You never know where these visits might lead to. Last time Hugh Robertson mentioned it in Parliament a couple of days after visiting.
“These things all make a difference, it is all about awareness and hopefully we will encourage people to start rowing which we need the facilities for.
“And if the Minister’s visit can help us find that last bit of money, that would be brilliant.
“It is in many ways an Olympic legacy. We will be developing the top-tier rowers for the future as well as the grassroots side of rowing as well.
“It really is a facility that can provide for all backgrounds and so if that is what a company are looking for and think would be a good investment then it would be fantastic for them to get in touch.”
The club itself have raised over £250,000 for the project, through friends, families and fundraising events and the committee have also approached a number of trust funds.
And members are tipping it to be one of the best rowing clubs in the country.
Paul Lukas, who has been rowing for more than 50 years, said: “The facilities here are fabulous.
“The canal is such a safe environment to learn to row - it really is extraordinary compared to the Thames.
“To be within touching distance of young, inexperienced rowers just learning gives them that feeling of confidence. It is so easy to have access to them should anything happen.
“It makes it feel safe and it is just all so easy here. It really will be one of the best clubs in the country.”
For more information or to support the boathouse appeal, visit www.boathouseappeal.co.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org.