Friday 20 May 2005, saw the grand opening of a new sports facility at Pent Valley Technology College, Folkestone. Champion 110m hurdles world record holder Colin Jackson CBE and Paralympic gold-medallist Noel Thatcher MBE officially opened the new £1.5 million leisure facility at Pent Valley Technology College, to be named V.L.C. (Valley Leisure Centre). Both Colin and Noel were excellent guests as they signed autographs, conducted interviews, gave speeches, met pupils, representatives from the local community and dignitaries throughout a packed afternoon of activities.
The project became a reality following a successful bid by Kent County Council’s, Sports Development Unit to the Big Lottery Fund, the cash has provided the school with the new centre featuring a four badminton court sized sports hall as well as a dance studio, fitness suite, changing rooms, community reception and new PE office. Included within the new building and funded by KCC and the school is a stylish new bistro for school and community use, which replaces the school’s old dilapidated canteen. A new 6th form centre, viewing gallery and meeting rooms.
Edward Fane, KCC Portfolio Manager for the PE and Sport Programme who has lead on the development of the lottery bid, commented that, “This is an excellent school and community facility supported by good and effective partnership work. The grand opening of VLC was extremely well organised and a fitting way to celebrate the completion of the building project and opening of the new facility. The school deserves great credit for their approach to this project and years of hard work that have gone into achieving it. The school and project is actively contributing to the wider strategic aims of the Authority and generally in the delivery of sport and disability sport in the County which deserved the recognition the grand opening brought.”
The project places a strong emphasis on providing access for all members of the community. In particular this project actively targets disabled people and groups. Activities available will include wheelchair basketball, table cricket, boccia, New Age Kurling, and sitting volleyball amongst many others. The venue will also be the host for the 2006 New Age Kurling National Championships – a restyled version of the original game of curling, played on any smooth surface by players of all abilities. Invented by local man John Bennett, who is a KCC Disability Associate Officer, it is now recognised by the British Wheelchair Sports Foundation.
In addition to the capital grant, Kent Sports Development Unit has secured a Big Lottery Fund revenue grant for two new posts. One a Disability Sportslink Officer to assist in the drive to develop opportunities and promote the facility to disabled people and groups. The second joint funded with Shepway District Council is a Community Sports Development Officer to promote sporting opportunities more generally to Pent Valley and the wider Shepway community.
KCC Councillor Michael Hill OBE in his speech at the grand opening recognised hard work behind the scenes that go into establishing these facilities. “This project has received both financial and technical support from Kent County Council and in particular through the development work of KCC Sports Development Unit, whom provide support to more than 600 schools and 15,000 voluntary sports clubs in the county. The school should be credited for their approach to this project and its focus on providing opportunities for people with disabilities. This is part of KCC continued support for schools and community sports facilities on school sites.”
KCC Sports Development Unit Director Chris Hespe said: “Pent Valley Technology College should be congratulated on getting its new sports facility which will be extensively used by the community”.
Pent Valley Technology College Headteacher Gwen Spear said: “The centre provides wonderful opportunities for students to engage in a wide variety of games and other physical activities. The centre will do much to enrich the lives of Pent Valley students and the local community in addition to promoting the development of Folkestone.”
The Big Lottery Fund who are investing £10.5 million into sports facilities in Kent through the PE and Sport Programme, where thanked for their contribution to the project.