HOPES for an Olympic standard gym in Halesowen have been dashed after it emerged Earls Gymnastic Club is on the verge of quitting the town.
The club, which was given over £13,000 for new equipment by Halesowen Area Committee and local businesses in the summer, has submitted a planning application for a new gym in Netherton.
Long standing problems concerning the club’s Earls High School home and a surge in new members after the heroics of Kristian Thomas in the Olympics has forced the club to move.
The Walwell building, Huntingtree Road, had been identified as a potential site but the premises at Westminster Industrial Estate, Netherton, is set to be the club’s new home.
Club chairman Jon Caulwell confirmed the club will move from its Earls home but promised the new home will be no more than three miles away.
He said: “We are actively looking to move, we have to leave our current premises as our membership has grown even more since the Olympics.
“We have put an application for a change of use of the premises in Netherton but it is one of a number of options we are looking into at the moment.”
He added: “Ideally, we will stay in the borders of Halesowen and we are still looking at a site in the town but the priority has to be to keep the club alive and to progress.”
Cradley South and Hayley Green Councillor Ken Turner, who was instrumental in securing the funding for new equipment, hoped the club would remain in Halesowen.
Cllr Turner said: “The Earls is a world class gymnastic club whose members compete all over the world and I am pleased that it will have a new centre of excellence.
“A lot of water is to go under the bridge before they move to Netherton and I would love if a suitable site could be found in Halesowen.”
British Gymnastics, the sport’s governing body, is part funding the new state-of-the-art gym which will allow the club’s 550 members to train around the clock.
Hundreds of people turned out to see the emotional homecoming of Team GB gymnast Kristian Thomas after he won the bronze medal after the Olympics.
A campaign was launched to raise the money needed for Olympic gym equipment and Halesowen Area Committee donated £9,000. The £4,000 shortfall was met by Halesowen and Rotary Club and local businesses including Street Bike, Shipley’s Amusements and Stewardson Developments.
Mr Caulwell could not confirm whether the club’s name, the last link to Halesowen if the move goes ahead, would remain if they decamped to Netherton.
He said: “I cannot say now but the name Earls Gymnastic Club has a lot of legacy behind it.”