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White elephant? Thousands beg to differ

A proposal to spend £840,000 on Boston's Princess Royal Sports Arena will go before members of Boston Borough Council's environment and performance committee on Wednesday night.

The cost will be covered by a £560,000 investment in energy-saving initiatives at the PRSA and the Geoff Moulder Leisure Complex which will save a projected £1.75 million at the PRSA alone over ten years. The combined projected income and energy savings from both centres will be £2.4 million over 20 years.

PRSA swimmers Displays a larger version of this image in a new browser window
Learners Finley (5), Reece (8), Oliver (4), Kevin (7) and Oliver (7) in the pool with instructor Andrea Dunn

Boston's Princess Royal Sports Arena: A complete and utter waste of taxpayers' money - a white elephant? We asked some of the people who actually use the facilities for their views on proposals.

Stephen Picket, father of Finley (5) and Reece (8), who are both learning to swim: "The place does need some money spending on it, but the facilities and staff are great. My children are learning a skill for life, and the lessons they have are really good. They have made good progress since coming here. My wife uses the gym and I help out with the junior rugby on Sunday mornings - there are about 150 mini rugby members. Because they are young the beauty of this place is they can do outdoor training and indoor training when the weather isn't fit. To just write the place off it is wrong. The rugby club wouldn't have the following it has without the PRSA. And where else could accommodate them?"

Amy Grogan, mother of Freya (6), who was also having a swimming lesson: "We have just moved here and find the PRSA a really friendly, intimate facility. It's really good for the children. I will become a member to use the gym. It's a good site and easy to park."

Charles De St Croix, father of Oliver (4): "I agree it needs money spending on it, but it's worth it. You have all you need in one place."

Justina Zasada, mother of seven-year-old twins Kevin and Oliver: "My boys have made real progress since they have been coming here to learn to swim. It is clean and warm and I like it because there is privacy for customers."

Tony Murdoch, from Sutterton, was using one of the cross trainers in the gym, sweating off a few Christmas pounds: "I've joined for general fitness and to lose a bit of a weight - I'm making good on a New Year resolution. If the council can cover the cost of the investment by making energy efficiencies it's a no-brainer. What's not to like about that?"

Cross trainer Tony Murdoch PRSA Displays a larger version of this image in a new browser window
Tony Murdoch gets to work on his fitness levels

Joseph Purkis Tyzack (13) was among a group of younger users in the gym. He echoed their comments: "We love it here. It's good fun. It keeps us out of trouble. If we weren't here tonight some of us would just be on the settee in front of the telly." His friends said they wanted to improve their fitness levels for playing sport at school and one said he was "a bit skinny" and wanted to build his muscles up a bit.

Joseph Purkis Tyzack (13) assisted pull up at PRSA Displays a larger version of this image in a new browser window

Joseph Purkis Tyzack (13) on the assisted pull up machine at PRSA

A Boston man, weight training with his teenaged son, said: "I do endurance sports and the PRSA is ideal for my training as it has everything here on one site that I need. It makes sense to spend the money, especially if it comes from savings. What's the alternative? Let it rot? That would be madness."

Geoff O'Neill, chairman of Boston Rugby Club: "PRSA has been home to Boston Rugby Club for 13 years and has allowed the club to grow in many ways. Most importantly we have a thriving mini and junior section which has 180 members aged between 7 and 17 who enjoy healthy sport and learn the discipline and respect that is embedded in the ethos of rugby. This development simply would not have been possible without PRSA as our old clubhouse and changing facilities could never cope with this number of people. The numbers grow even larger when we host a number of matches during the Sunday morning sessions and we have all the visiting players and their families to accommodate. When teams visit us we are often complimented on the quality of our facilities that others can only dream of and the fact that we have access to indoor training is a major boost when the weather is not suitable for youngsters to be exercising outside. The clubhouse is also a valuable community asset as we frequently host wedding receptions, christenings and birthday parties and we are now the Boston base for those who are blood donors. We are also the providers of catering and bar services for frequent dinners, parties and awards evenings that are held in the main hall."

Guy Bull, Lincolnshire Schools Athletics Secretary, Eastern Region Coach for Combined Events, Secretary of the South Lincolnshire Area and qualified coach and field judge: "Critics who say the PRSA is a white elephant need to come down here and see what's happening and how well it's used. There's athletics training on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. When there's rugby and football on the go as well it's brilliant. Especially when you consider there is a national obesity crisis. We held the English Schools' Athletic Association combined events and race walk championships here over a weekend last September. The car park and field were full of cars - the place was chocker. The facilities and organisation impressed and we are confident we will host it again in 2017. This was the first time the PRSA had staged such a prestigious event and proved to be a great success. Athletes travelled from all parts of the country to participate in the event which was the culmination of the schools' track and field year. Visitors were amazed at the facilities available and our athletes certainly benefit from such facilities. The event is aimed at budding athletes who hope to follow in the footsteps of athletes such as Jessica Ennis and Daley Thompson. Princess Royal Sports Arena, rated as one of the best venues in the country for this competition, was in pristine condition for the event with the athletes being judged by many of the officials who presided over events at the London Olympics. The stadium was a hive of activity and many personal bests were being set by athletes in facilities which had been prepared for top-class competition. Visiting athletes were very pleased with the indoor area which was used for warm up before the event which very often is not available at many of the venues used for this competition. When we held the area schools championships there were up to 700 people here. We also hold the county championships and the schools cup competition. We are working on a project to get primary schools involved and sessions for people to be coaches and officials. Those coming to the PRSA for athletics range from ten to 40-plus."

Andrea Dunn, swimming instructor: "People like the personal touch they get at PRSA. We teach children to swim on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays - there are 130 in the main swim school. The council investment would help, especially replacement boilers, keeping the water temperature comfortable and consistent."

PRSA gym Displays a larger version of this image in a new browser window
The gym is busy, even on a Thursday night

PRSA Contract Manager Marc Speirs said: "PRSA is a fully accredited centre to the highest national standards. The centre is hitting all participation, performance and customer satisfaction targets set for us by the council, and we are always working hard to improve service levels. Our staff have been here years and have a great rapport with customers which keeps them coming back. Last year we had more than 103,000 people through the doors, which is up by six per cent on last year. That encompasses everything from athletics, swimming, rugby, football and gymnastics and users include Boston United in the Community, Positive Futures, GB Rowing and Army Cadets and many local schools among others. Key drivers for all councils in the future are all about healthy initiatives, which will only boost our figures in the future. As 1Life are the current operator at the centre, we know we are a key local partner in the support and delivery of local health and activity outcomes for the council. In the last year we have implemented a referral scheme for weight loss to encourage pre-surgical intervention, with the help of a local GP. We also have a British heart Foundation fundraising day taking place on Friday, February 6. All our initiatives and programmes will increase footfall and positivity, for example we have timetabled extra workout classes, so it is really important we have a building that is fit for purpose and that can be sustained into the future. The benefit to the council is that we are an award-winning operator when it comes to energy management and sustainability. 1Life has reduced CO2 emissions by 39 per cent for our local authority clients UK-wide, so managing energy-saving initiatives and delivering savings is what we do."

English Schools'athletics PRSA 2014 Displays a larger version of this image in a new browser window

The PRSA on a Thursday night in January

Action from the English Schools' Athletic Association combined events held at PRSA last September and possibly returning in 2017PRSA 2015 Displays a larger version of this image in a new browser window