Lost balls blamed for sports hall damage

DOZENS of lost balls have been blamed for a £60,000 flooding disaster which has closed North Walsham Sports Centre's main hall for more than three months.

DOZENS of lost balls have been blamed for a £60,000 flooding disaster which has closed North Walsham Sports Centre's main hall for more than three months.

Fingers are crossed that the hall will re-open in early December to schoolchildren, clubs and the public once finishing work on the new floor is complete.

The wooden floor swelled, lifted and buckled under two inches of water in the wake of a freak rainstorm which flooded homes and businesses throughout North Walsham on August 31.

Later investigations revealed that the centre's drainage system was blocked by 60 to 70 lost tennis and footballs.

The Spenser Avenue centre is attached to North Walsham High School and is used by pupils during the day and by the public at other times.

Manager Mike Brooks said roller skaters, footballers, badminton, short tennis, basketball, hockey and cricket players were all regular hall users and he estimates that the centre has lost more than £5,000 in revenue from bookings.

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Some clubs had been able to squeeze into the centre's gym instead but others had been meeting at Stalham and Cromer sports centres during the closure and he is hoping they will all come back to North Walsham.

“The worst thing is that children haven't had anywhere else to go. Adults can take themselves off elsewhere,” he said. “At our Saturday skating sessions we get between 50 and 100 people. Some of them are trying to enter competitions and they haven't been able to practise.”

Mr Brooks said on the day of the storm blocked gutters had caused water to pour down the centre's walls and flood the hall floor.

“It was like a couple of waterfalls. We tried to mop up but next day the whole floor exploded. It rose up about two-and-a-half feet from the ground.”

New drains have since been installed and grilles placed over downpipes to stop balls getting trapped.

Paul Bradshaw, head of PE at the high school, said they had been holding more lessons outdoors, in the gym and had taken GCSE PE pupils to use facilities at Paston College.

But they had built up a backlog of badminton and basketball fixtures and expected a busy schedule to catch up once the hall re-opened.

One positive outcome was that the new floor was sprung, said Mr Brooks. Lining, edging and electrical work are being completed and the floor will then need to harden after several coats of varnish are applied. The £60,000 cost of repairs is covered by insurance.

·A free taster day for all ages is planned at the sports centre on January 24, from 10am to 5pm. It will include basketball, badminton, short tennis, trampolining and table tennis, with a gymnastics' display. The event will end with a roller-skating session.

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